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1833 — 1866 


The last to live the simple life, toiling, spinning, weaving, 
Cooking 'round the open fire; with axe and gun retrieving 
Nature's products from the soil, the wild-wood half concealing; 
Swinging cradles night and day, such human love revealing; 
Those "early leaders opening up the way" for coming neighbors, 
Who gave for us, their coming sons, their lives, their loves, 
their labors. 



published undee the auspices of the 
Eaton County Pioneee and Histoeical Society 


Frank N. Green, Cynthia A. Green, J. Sumner Hamlin, Frank A. Ells 
Publishing Committee. 


The Charlotte Republican Print. 
H. T. McGrath and M. H. DeFoe. 


This book lias been published for the benefit of 
the people of Eaton County, who through life's an- 
cestral chain are lovingly linked to the past. Its 
pages cover portions of the history of the county in- 
cluding a third of a century, but they make no 
claim of entire completeness. If power were given 
the narrator a complete detailed history would 
resurrect and reveal all of the myriad of hardships, 
privations, afflictions, reverses and solemn visita- 
tions as endured by the pioneers, who leaving al- 
ready settled communities, wended their way into 
the primeval Michigan forests to carve out homes 
and enlarge the borders of civilization. 

Such a reflection of a past generation cannot be 
reproduced in completeness. The impotence of mere 
words render its impossible. 

But these pages as compiled and written cover- 
ing the early history of Eaton County by Hon. 
Daniel Strange of Oneida, a life-long resident and 
pioneer, supply a fund of interesting historical mat- 
ter and information that will grow in value with 
the years, and be treasured more and more as gen- 
eration follows generation through the years that 
are certain to follow. 

All of these first settlers have passed on before. 
Nearly all of them — as we usually interpret life — 



are now sleeping beneath the sod which through 
their efforts and sacrifices was tilled and prepared. 
Every cemetery in the county bears within its bosom 
those who fought the heroic fight of dominion, pass- 
ing the fruits of their anxieties and toil to those of 
us who follow them. Surrounded and impressed by 
these sacred memories this rehearsal of events cov- 
ering a generation should be of great value, and to 
Mr. Strange, now advanced in years, a product of 
Eaton County and a nobleman by nature, who has 
gladly given of his time and strength in the compil- 
ing of this book should the people feel profoundly 

To the readers of this book the suggestion is 
ventured that life is one continuous whole, in reality 
not broken by periods or generations, but past, 
present and future actually linked indissolubly to- 
gether as the moving picture may be viewed upon 
the screen. Thus families of the past and present 
are only seemingly broken, and we now in action, or 
possibly on the threshold of the future, are also 
pioneers working out the plan of a still more glor- 
ious destiny. 

Frank A. Ells. 

Charlotte, Mich., August 28, 1923. 


"I hear the tread of Pioneers of nations yet to be, 

The first low wash of waves where shall roll a human sea." 

So spake in wise prophetic words the poet of the free. 

While standing lone mid forests vast on Lake Superior's shore 

This music broke upon his soul above the water's roar. 

He listened then for coming men; let us con their mission o'er. 

The coming men must clear the Vv'oods and conquer foes and 

fears ; 
Their wives must share their toil and care and, smothering 

many tears, 
Must children rear mid want and fear, while hope filled up the 


A noble race of stalwart men! their hearts must know no fear; 
With courage strong, eschewing wrong, they left all kindred dear 
And, last words spoke, with hearts of oak they came to conquer 

Savage was Nature's gentlest mood, savage the beasts, they tell; 
Savage the blast of winter's gale, savage the trees that fell; 
Savage the blows of these savage foes, savage the men as well. 

These were the foes that hedged them round, these were the 
foes o'ercome; 

But their weapons were mainly those of peace, and they con- 
quered, one by one, 

The pathless wood and the fordless flood and here they built 
their home. 

Home, home, 'twas a humble home, but the love that there was 

Was the mother love and the father love and the love of their 

children own; 
A love that grew dear because of the fear of the dangers they 

shared alone. 

Then neighbors came and strangers came and they welcomed 
one and all; 



And their hearts grew warm. No social storm and seldom a 

a petty brawl 
Was permitted to break nor aught to take from the love they 

bore for all. 

So with sympathy vast they came at last to claim as brethren all 
The men who land from a foreign strand and settle within the 

Of our oceans vast. So we came at last to form a Nation, small. 

But soon to expand and cover the land and extend from sea to 

From perpetual snow to the gulf below and to islands in the sea. 
Our soldier bands in foreign lands fight old world tyranny. 

But evils here we now must fear and fight with might and main 

All sinful lust and lust of pride and lust of sordid gain. 

The liquor curse and evils worse have bound us with a chain. 

These are the foes that now disclose and all advance assail. 
The pioneers put by all fears; to conquer ne'er did fail. 
Shall we, their sons, prove recreant ones and let our foes prevail? 

Let's emulate the pace they set and every wrong assail, 
And greeting give to all who live wherever they may dwell; 
Our brethren all both great and small to own them we do well. 

In brotherhood to all mankind our love should none forsake. 

Accept the task, if islands ask our freedom to partake; 

Let's share this boon with them right soon, their energies awake! 

Shout LIBERTY to all the world till heaven's vault is riven! 
And as we pray from day to day let charity be given. 
"Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as 'tis in 

So shall our land become more grand — home of the noble, free. 
I hear the tread of Pioneers' sons echoing from sea to sea. 
And I hear the shout their songs ring out, "LOVE, TRUTH and 


Foreword 1 

Charlotte 7 

Bellevue 15 

Eaton 27 

Hamlin 37 

Vermontville 46 

Sunfield 57 

Trying Trails 62 

Delta 70 

Eaton Rapids 81 

Eaton Rapids City 89 

Chester 93 

Pioneer's Golden Wedding 97 

Kalamo 101 

Walton 107 

Olivet 109 

Oneida 116 

Grand Ledge 123 

Roxand 127 

M. A. C. Semi-Centennial 134 

Benton 138 

Brookfield 149 

Windsor 156 

Carman Golden Wedding 164 

Carmel 165 

Address to Pioneers 173 

Pioneer Society 190 



Inteoductoey Chaptee 

Washington Irving, writing an humorous history 
of New York, thought it necessary to begin with 
the creation of the universe. It is not necessary, in 
writing of the Pioneers of Eaton County, to relate 
the discovery of America by Columbus in 1492, or 
even allude to its possible discovery by Lief Erricson 
some five hundred years earlier, but it is proper to 
note that among the early explorers the Spaniards 
over-ran Peru, Central America and Mexico in quest 
of gold and the region of the lower Mississippi in 
search for the fountain of eternal youth. 

The Dutch explored the Hudson Eiver thinking to 
find it a channel across the continent. It is strange 
that these early navigators should have thought it 
possible that a rapidly flowing current of fresh 
water from the hillsides might prove a channel level 
with a distant ocean. The French, too, explored the 
St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes to all their bound- 
aries thinking to find thence a passage to the Indies. 
In fact LaSalle did find the portage across to the 
Illinois River down which he floated to the Miss- 



issippi and the Gulf and was surprised to find him- 
self still on the eastern side of the continent. 

These were not home-seekers. The French inter- 
married with the Indians and continued for many 
years as explorers and left a race of half-breeds be- 
hind them. They established a mission at Sault Ste. 
Marie in 1641 and a more permanent settlement 
there in 1668. They founded a mission at St. Ignace 
in 1671 and a fort at Detroit in 1701, but made little 
progress toward permanent settlements. It re- 
mained to the English to colonize America. 

Michigan was part of the Northwest Territory 
until 1800, when it became part of Indiana Terri- 
tory and in January, 1805, it was organized as Mich- 
igan Territory. It remained a desert wilderness 
until 1823, when it was given representative govern- 
ment. The southern portion, about fifty miles in 
width including Eaton County, was surveyed into 
townships, each six miles square and numbered from 
the base line and principal meridian, in 1825. These 
in turn were surveyed into sections one mile square 
in 1826 and 1827, or about ten years before settlers 
arrived. These government surveyors in 1825 met 
many bewildering hardships and became disgusted. 
They reported that the country was but a series of 
interminable swamps and sand barrens ''with not 
more than one acre in a hundred, and probably not 
more than one acre in a thousand, fit for cultiva- 
tion. ' ' 

General Cass, who was Governor from 1813 to 


1831, knew better. He had helped to cut the army 
path through the wilderness from Urbana, Ohio, to 
Detroit in 1812. He had gone over the trail from 
Detroit to Saginaw, and he was the first white man 
who ever rode over the trail that led from Detroit 
to Fort Dearborn, the present site of the city of 
Chicago. With a view to counteracting the effect 
of these reports, and opening up the country, he 
secured government appropriations, one for the 
inauguration of a system of roads connecting De- 
troit with various distant points. At the terminus 
of one of these roads has since grown up the city of 
Port Huron ; of another, Saginaw^ ; of a third, Grand 
Eapids, and a fourth terminal is what is now the 
city of Toledo. By far the most important road was 
that stretching westward to Lake Michigan and 
ultimately to Fort Dearborn. Doubtless the settle- 
ment of Michigan was much delayed by the fact that 
the low lying lands about Detroit, and for thirty 
miles inland, were under water much of the year, 
thus presenting an almost impassable barrier to 
pioneer settlement. About 1830, pioneers began to 
occupy the higher and drier lands of Oakland and 
"Washtenaw counties. The government roads 
above named became available for pioneering fur- 
ther inland. No road led direct to Eaton County 
but many followed the "Grand River Road," after- 
w^ards the ''Plank Road," from Detroit through 
where now are Howell and North Lansing and 
thence a trail toward Grand Rapids. On this trail. 


in Clinton County, at Eagle, a professional land- 
looker named Groger aided many in fording Grand 
River and locating lands in tlie north part of Eaton 
County but very many more took the "Territorial 
Road" toward Chicago. They followed this as far 
as Jackson or even Battle Creek whence they 
turned north and so entered Eaton County. 

Eaton County was called into being by act of the 
Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Michigan 
on the 29th of October, 1829, when there was not a 
white inhabitant Avithin its bounds. Andrew Jack- 
son that year became President and the new county 
was named Eaton for his Secretary of War. On the 
4th of November of that year the Council enacted 
that the County of Eaton shall be attached to, and 
become part of St. Joseph County. On the follow- 
ing day it was enacted that the Counties of Branch, 
Calhoun and Eaton should be set off into a town- 
ship by the name of Green. By act of July 30, 1830, 
Eaton County was attached to Kalamazoo for 
judicial purposes — and all of this before there was 
an inhabitant within the bounds of the county. 

On March 18, 1835, the Territorial Council enacted 
that the County of Eaton shall be a township by the 
name of Belleville and the first township meeting 
shall be held in such place as the sheriff of Calhoun 
County shall appoint and said county shall be at- 
tached to Calhoun County for judicial purposes. 

In 1835, the Territorial Council adopted a State 
form of government and applied for admission to 


the Union. In 1836, this was granted with the pro- 
viso that Michigan accept a southern boundary as 
claimed by Ohio. Michigan accepted this and cast 
her electoral vote in 1836, w^hich was accepted and 
counted but the ''wireless" was slow in those days 
and it was not until January, 1837, that Congress 
proclaimed Michigan a State. Hence, outside of 
Michigan, that is called the date of her admission 
but inhabitants of the State claim an earlier date, 
and prove it. 

On December 29, 1837, the State Legislature en- 
acted that ''the County of Eaton be and the same is 
hereby organized and the circuit court of the said 
County of Eaton shall be held at such place as the 
county commissioners shall provide." The com- 
missioners fixed upon Bellevue "until suitable 
rooms could be erected at the county seat." This 
had been legally fixed upon the Charlotte prairie 
before there was house or habitation there. G. W. 
Barns of Gull Prairie had purchased from the gov- 
ernment in 1832, a part of this prairie. He offered 
special inducements to the Territorial Commission- 
ers to locate the county seat here and he entered a 
bond of $1,000. The claim that Bellevue was once 
the county seat has shadow of truth. Courts and 
records were held there for a time. 

The first purchases of land in the county were 
mainly by speculators and not by settlers. The first 
entry was in 1829, a part of section 30, in Vermont- 
ville, by T. Sumner. The second entry was in Oneida 


Townsliip, section 2, by H. Mason in 1831. This 
section includes the north part of the present city 
of Grand Ledge, includes the islands and the ledges, 
but it did Mason but little good. It was sold four 
years later for taxes. 

In 1832, the Government Tract Book shows three 
entries only in the county, two by G. W. Barns, parts 
of section 18 in Eaton Township, and of section 13 
in Carmel, both of these now in Charlotte. 

The first settlement in the county was in Bellevue 
and will be described at length under that title, and 
the second was in 1835 in Eaton at the edge of Char- 
lotte prairie and will be fully described under Eaton. 

Eight townships were first settled in 1836 and 
five in 1837, and last, but not least, Carmel in 1838. 
A chapter will be given to each in order of settle- 
ment as nearly as possible but for the present we 
look to the history of our proud county seat, 

Its location was upon a most beautiful flowering 
prairie. The legend that this was first discovered 
by a Mr. Torrey in 1833, is not consistent with the 
fact that the village was platted upon the two one- 
eighth sections (one upon each side of the section 
line), which were bought from the government in 
1832 by G. W. Barns. He secured the location of 
the county seat here and later sold his holdings to 
E. B. Bostwick. 

The following statement was written and read 
by E. A. Foote, Esq., in 1877. It differs somewhat 


from otlier published statements but lie was pains- 
taking and thorough and had facilities not now 
available and he vouched for its accuracy : 

"Jonathan and Samuel Searls found their way 
through from Bellevue in October, 1835, They 
worked five days cutting their track and then hired 
a team to bring Mrs. Searls and their household 
goods through. This track followed the Indian trail 
from Bellevue to the Indian village in Walton and 
then followed the ridge along the south side of Battle 
Creek until it reached the township line running 
through Charlotte. This was for a long time the 
only passable route to Bellevue. 

' ' Jonathan and Samuel had no team to work with 
for one year after they came. By their own unaided 
strength they had to cut and move to the spot the 
logs for Samuel Searls' house, and then raise the 
logs to their place in the building. There was not 
another house or family within eight miles of them. 
These two men worked alone bare handed, laying 
the foundation of a city, until the first of February, 
1837, when Japhet Fisher joined them as hired man 
and went to chopping for them. (He afterwards be- 
came, by accident, the first settler in Benton where 
fuller mention will be given). Stephen Kinne and 
his wife and brother, Amos, came through on the 
first of January, 1837, following the track cut in 
1835, and built their house two miles south of Char- 
lotte. The nearest house then was Mr. Shumway's 
in Walton, two miles southwest of where Olivet is 


now located. In 1837, the Searls brothers built a 
honse for Uncle Jonathan further west on Searls 
street. It was this log house of Uncle Jonathan's 
that became, for a time, the headquarters for the 
county. They held caucuses, conventions and county 
canvasses there. 'They most always stayed over 
night,' Aunt Sally said. She had them all to wait 
upon. She did the 'county cooking' for years. 'We 
had a great deal of men's company in those days,' 
she said, 'but we seldom saw a woman.' 

"In 1837 or '38, a log house was built on the south 
side of Lawrence Avenue east of the site of the 
Methodist church, where Charles Piper once resided. 
This was the first building erected properly on the 
prairie; the house of Jonathan Searls was in the 
edge of the timber at the southeast corner of the 

"Allen Searls, a half brother of Jonathan, Ste- 
phen and Samuel, moved with his wife in September, 
1838, coming with a horse team via Jackson and 
Eaton Rapids. A road was cut out from the Rajoids 
to a point in Eaton Township and was passable for 
teams. From Charlotte a path was cut out as far 
east as the Holcomb place. When Allen Searls ar- 
rived he contracted with E. I. Lawrence to finish a 
tavern or 'court house' as it was called. Mr. Searls 
was unable to finish the building in time for the 
spring court in 1839, and the first court was not held 
here until the following year. ' ' 

The above v/as written by E. A. Foote, Esq., and read by him 
at the Pioneer meeting, 1S77. 


Edward A. Foote settled in Micliigan in 1840. He 
entered tlie University of Micliigan in 1840 and on 
the 15tli of August, 1848, located in Eaton County 
of which he was elected clerk in 1856. In January, 
1855, he established the Eaton Republican (after- 
wards the Charlotte Republican) and became its 
first editor. He was prominent in organizing the 
Republican party in the county and in the State. 

Harvey Williams, who owned the first frame 
house, as successor to Simeon Harding, established 
the first store in the place. A block building, which 
stood on the lot between the hotel and the Metho- 
dist church, was built by Mr. Bostwick and occu- 
pied by a young lawyer. La Conte. 

Dr. A. B. Sampson came to Charlotte in 1848, and 
won his place as one of its most enterprising citi- 
zens. The "Sampson Hall" in which the courts 
were for some time held, was built by him in 1856 
and '57, and was the second or third brick building 
in the place. 

Hiram Shepherd first came to Michigan in 1837, 
and purchased a tract of land about two miles 
southeast of Charlotte, then w^ent east for his fam- 
ily, returning with them in 1840. "Charlotte then 
contained but two or three buildings and neighbors 
were scarce." After moving two or three times 
he finally settled at what became known as ' ' Shep- 
herd 's Corners" where his remaining years were 

Alonzo L. Baker settled in Eaton County in 1842, 


and in Charlotte in 1848, which was his home until 
his death in 1880. 

Henry Robinson settled in Vermontville in 184-1, 
and removed to Charlotte in 1852. 

Hannibal G. Rice was a well known character and 
amassed considerable wealth. 

Ellzey Hayden settled in Charlotte in 1844, and 
engaged in business with his brother John. He 
was a prominent citizen and held county office for 
many years. 

James Johnson settled here in 1851, F. H. Kil- 
bourn in '57 and T. D. Green in '46. 

Rev. Luman Foote, father of E. A. Foote, was an 
Episcopal clergyman and graduate of the University 
of Vermont ; he practiced law in the supreme court 
of Vermont in 1822, founded and edited the Burling- 
ton Free Press from which he retired in 1833. He 
preached in Kalamazoo from 1840, and came to 
Charlotte in 1846. 

D. F. Webber came to Charlotte in 1857, and the 
following winter taught the village school, then 
took a census of the village and found less than seven 
hundred inhabitants. He taught in a brick build- 
ing on West Lovett street. The building afterwards 
became a wagon shop. 

Mr. Johnston established the Eaton Bugle in 
March, 1845. The first number had advertisements 
of S. E. Millett & Co., ''All kinds of goods (for 
ready pay only) ; also, wanted 100,000 bushels of 
ashes delivered at our ashery in exchange for 


goods." Joseph Hall, M. D. and M. S. Wilkinson, 
attorneys, had cards in this issue. J. & E. Hayden 
advertised tin, etc., for sale, ''Terms — ready pay. 
All kinds of produce taken in exchange." The 
editor was evidently an humorist. From his long 
editorial I clip but a fragment: "Where is the heart 
that hath ever imagined the inward pang that a half 
cracked swain endures when gazing where two of 
these flowers — the most lovely that ever grew — 
bringing their lips together with a sound not unlike 
that which a cider barrel makes when the bung 
flies out." The sixth issue of the Bugle announced, 
"Since our last paper there have thirteen settlers 
arrived in our prairie city. We are happy to an- 
nounce the prospects of our city were never better." 

E. B. Bostwick of New York City had purchased 
of Geo. W. Barns the entire tract upon which the 
early village was located. H. I. Lawrence of Char- 
lotte was his agent. Bostwick wrote Lawrence from 
New York, December 29, 1838, a letter from which I 
extract the following : " I am much pleased with your 
purchase of the balance of the Eaton County-seat 
property and I will soon write you a long letter sub- 
mitting a plan for the to^\Ti. You speak of calling 
the place after me but I have just become a married 
man and I would prefer calling it Charlotte after 
my wife." 

A petition from the citizens was handed to the 
board of supervisors at their session in 1863, and 
the order was issued on the twelfth of that month 


incorporating tlie village of Charlotte. The first 
election was held on the first of March, 1864, when 
the following officers were chosen: President, A. D. 
Shaw; Trustees, W. L. Granger, Joseph Mnsgrave, 
Calvin Clark, Sylvester Collins, S. P. Webber, and 
T. L. Curtiss; Marshal, Henry Baughman; Treas- 
urer, E. T. Church; Clerk, E. A. Foote; Assessor, 
S. P. Jones. 

By act of Michigan Legislature, March 29, 1871, 
the City of Charlotte was incorporated, but this is 
more recent than the pioneer period. 

The first postmaster here was Jonathan Searls, 
appointed in 1838, and a mail bag, sometimes empty, 
came once a week from Marshall. 

Musgrave & Haslett became dry goods mer- 
chants here in 1854. F. W. & P. M. Higby entered 
the same business in 1858. 

Elisha Shepherd, in company with his father-in- 
law, L. H, Ion, began business here in 1852. They 
were proprietors of the old Eagle Hotel and oper- 
ated a line of stages to neighboring towns. About 
1856, the firm of E. & J. Shepherd was established. 
Elisha Shepherd became very prominent and for 
many years was the president of the Eaton County 
Pioneer Society. 

E. T. Church established a grocery here in 1856, 
and continued it until he was the oldest established 
merchant in the city. 

Dr. Henry M. Munson came to Charlotte from 
New York in the fall of 1847, his family joining him 
in the following spring. The old Munson home. 


near tlie Federal building, is still in possession of 
the family, tlie owner being a grandson, Carl Mun- 
son Green, the well known Chicago-Detroit adver- 
tising man. Dr. Munson was the county's first 
Probate Judge which office gave him the unique 
distinction of serving the people of the community 
at both ends of their earthly career — in the begin- 
ning as the family doctor, making his calls on horse- 
back and carrying his medicine in saddle bags, and 
at the close of the pilgrimage, as the county judge, 
disbursing their earthly possessions according to the 
meager laws of the time. 

A. H. Munson and Theodore J. Thomas estab- 
lished a hardware store here in 1861. 

Musgrave & Lacey established a banking busi- 
ness here in January, 1862. (These dates are copied 
as I find them in print. My personal recollection 
would question some of them.) 

Hon. D. Darwin Hughes taught the school here in 

N. A. Johnson, a manufacturer, came here in 1842, 
when there were but five completed houses in the 

Charlotte may well be proud of her beautiful 
prairie but, financially considered, it is but a poor 
offset for the stream, water-power and sawmill 
possessed by other infant villages of the period. 
The Searls brothers were experts with the broadaxe 
and hewed boards (leaving no score marks) for 
many houses. The first load of lumber in Charlotte 
was drawn from Spicerville in 1838. It was used in 


flooring the hotel in 1840, and in May, 1840, the 
first term of court was held in its upper room. The 
^first permanent settlement in the county was in July, 
1833. Allowing a full generation for pioneering the 
county, the county was well opened up in 1866. 
There were as many miles of road opened up in the 
county then as today (not so good, however). As 
many bridges, as many schools, churches, (not 
edifices), mills, etc. Pioneers no longer cut roads 
to their homes through trackless forests nor 
pounded corn upon stumps for their meal. The 
open fireplace had given place to the stove for cook- 
ing and carpets appeared upon their floors. About 
this time home-spun suits for grown daughters 
gave place to calico and young men began to buy 
some of their clothes "ready made." 

The soldiers returned from the Civil War with 
some money and much enterprise in 1865. An era of 
rapid development then set in and the county has 
since multiplied its wealth many fold but not by 
pioneering methods. Perhaps as many acres have 
been cleared since that date as before but by quite 
different process. The grub hoe has given place to 
dynamite, the scythe to the mower, the sickle to 
the reaper, the ox to the horse and he to the motor. 
We talk with friends a thousand miles away and 
transport ourselves through the air and our 
thoughts by wireless to the ends of the earth. 

The pioneers' proper work ended in 1866, and we 
may well end our history there and now bid a grate- 
ful farewell to the pioneers for a season. 


The early prospectors and pioneers of Eaton 
County exhibited much esthetic taste. As we have 
seen the site of Charlotte was selected because of 
its beautiful flowering prairie; so too at Bellevue, 
the site merited its name when but an Indian vil- 
lage and long before white men beheld it. J. T. 
Hayt, the first postmaster there, thus described it : 
"The burr-oak plain where the village of Bellevue 
is now situated, contained about a half section of 
land and, in its original state, it was to me the most 
beautiful spot I had ever seen. I visited it in June, 
1834, before the white man had marred its beauty. 
The wild grass was then about a foot high and in- 
terspersed with it were the most beautiful flowers 
that I had ever beheld. * * * * While gazing upon 
its beauty and inhaling its delicious fragrance, I 
formed a resolution that, Providence permitting, I 
would erect upon it a dwelling. ' ' 

A squatter whose name and fame are alike well 
nigh forgotten, Blashford or Blashfield, had erected 
here some kind of habitation as early as 1829 or '30. 
He owned no land and remained but a short time. 
Perhaps he should no more be counted than the sur- 
veyors who preceded him. 

The first actual and permanent settler here, or in 
Eaton County, was Capt. Reuben Fitzgerald, in 
July, 1833. His habitation was so unlike that of 



other pioneers that it is jDerhaps well to pause to 
describe the early homes of pioneers here and, brief- 
ly, elsewhere. The item will interest the children 
of this and all succeeding generations. Pioneers 
everywhere readily adapt themselves and their 
houses to the available material. Near the rocky 
beds of western streams shelters were built from the 
easily quarried flagstones and covered by buffalo 
hides or other available material. In the distant 
southwest, an almost rainless region, walls were 
built of adobe or dried mud. The enclosed space 
covered with poles over which was thro^vn a few 
inches of earth. This made an admirable shelter 
from blistering sun and biting winds but would 
have been quite inadequate if rains were copious, 
but thousands of ''greasers" are dwelling in these 
today. On the great western prairies temporary 
homes were the well known sod-houses. 

The most of Eaton County had abundant crude 
building material in the densely crowded forests 
where the straight trunks of trees were often sixty 
feet in height before a limb was found. From these 
trees straight logs, about a foot in diameter and 
from sixteen to forty feet in length, were cut and 
from these their houses and barns were built. The 
first shelter for the lone pioneer was usually a shanty 
of such poles as he alone could handle and covered 
with brush or bark and served for the few months 
until the better house could be built. Sometimes the 
shanty was of heavier and more permanent char- 


acter. A log pen sixteen feet square with wall higher 
upon one side than the other and covered with split 
half logs from hollow trees. These were laid side 
by side trough up to convey the water to the lower 
side. Crevices between were then covered by other 
half logs reverse side up thus forming a roof imper- 
vious to rain. The late Senator G. N. Potter and his 
numerous brothers and sisters were reared to their 
teens in a shanty of this kind where the village of 
Potterville now stands. The ruder form of log 
house was of rough logs encased in their bark, 
notched together at the corners so as to lie close, 
then the crevices chinked and plastered with mud. 
This was roofed with shakes or long shingles riven 
by hand. Holes were cut for door and window and 
a hole perhaps six feet square at center of one end. 
In this was built the open fireplace, enclosed with 
stones laid in mud upon the outside, but the inside 
opened into the house. A chimney was built of 
sticks encased in mud and carried higher than the 
peak of the rude habitation. 

In the best kind of log house the logs were hewn 
to square sticks of timber. These were dovetailed 
at the corners thus forming solid walls. This was 
called a "block-house" and was comparatively rare. 
The Eagle Hotel at Charlotte was of this character, 
hewn and finished by the Searls brothers and nearly 
as smooth and perfect as a modern stuccoed house. 

The most common character of log house here was 
of quality between these two. Elm logs were com- 


monly chosen and tlie bark removed. These were 
then hewn upon one, the inner, side. When these 
were finished and papered one would scarcely see, 
when inside, that he was not in a ceiled and plastered 

When logs w^ere rolled up to a height of about 
eight feet a longer log was placed at each end pro- 
jecting perhaps ten feet rearward. Long rafters ex- 
tended to the ends of these logs. The roof then 
covered a veranda or porch but by them always 
called a "stoop." This formed a convenient shelter 
for tools, work shop or fuel. A fireplace was built 
of bricks with brick chimney. The house was one 
and a half stories in height with floors, sometimes of 
sawed lumber but more frequently of ''puncheon" 
or boards riven by hand from straight splitting 
trees. All cooking was by the open fireplace which 
was provided with an iron crane from which de- 
pended iron hooks of various lengths to support 
the kettles over the flames or coal. Baking was in a 
tin baker placed before the fire. The frame suj)- 
ported bread tins in which were placed the loaves. 
A polished tin beneath sloping toward the fire re- 
flected the heat against the under side of loaves 
and a cover above sloping from the fire reflected 
heat downward. I well remember when my sister 
and I were stationed one at each side the fireplace 
to watch the loaves and to call mother when the 
ends began to brown that she might lift the cover 
and turn the loaves around to brown the other end. 


After 1850, cook-stoves came into general use in 
the county. Studding and siding could then be ob- 
tained at saw mills and with these the "stoop" was 
enclosed to form pantry and kitchen where the stove 
was installed. In such a home the writer was 
reared until twelve years old. 

When Capt. Fitzgerald arrived at Bellevue with 
his wife and three children, with two yoke of oxen 
drawing his one wagon with his earthly possessions, 
he upturned the wagon box for a shelter which with 
some additions of bark formed his first temporary 
home. He found here what he thought was a deserted 
Indian village with wigwams of poles and bark. He 
took these flakes of bark, some four feet square, to 
roof a better shanty. When the Indians returned 
they were very indignant. It became necessary to 
send to Marshall for an interpreter. His explana- 
tion with sundry gifts quieted the Indians and all 
was well. The scattered burr-oaks had much the 
form of modern apple trees and were ill adapted for 
building purposes. The Captain had but little 
money to buy material but his friend Hunsiker, back 
east and planning to come soon, advanced the money 
and bought lumber in Marshall and Capt. Fitzgerald 
built the first two houses and, very exceptional in 
the history of pioneering in Michigan, they were 
framed houses instead of log. They moved into the 
new house before it was completed and before it was 
roofed. During a severe storm the Captain and 
another man held a buffalo robe over the sick bed 


of Mrs. Fitzgerald. On November 12, 1834, she gave 
birtli to a daughter, Sarah A., the first white child 
born in Eaton County, and on February 13, 1837, she 
gave birth to a son, Edwin. She succumbed, as did 
many another, to the hardships of pioneer life and 
died sixteen days after this birth. The Captain 
remained a widower nearly five years. He always 
regretted his lack of early education but now made 
up for it, in part, by marrying a very intelligent 
lady, Florinda, daughter of Judge Eldred of Climax. 
The Judge was a man of some eminence, twice in 
Michigan legislature and for many years president 
of Kalamazoo Baptist College. This second wife 
bore the Captain seven children, some of them living- 
more than a score of years into the twentieth cen- 

I have already mentioned the earliest entries of 
land in Eaton County ; one in Vermontville in 1829, 
one in Oneida in 1831, two entries in what is now the 
heart of Charlotte in 1832. All of these were by 
speculators who probably never saw their purchases. 
Another entry was made in Bellevue in 1832 by 
Isaac E. Crary. At that time he was a resident of 
Marshall but his interests in Eaton County in a man- 
ner antedates them all. He was twice our member 
of the legislature and, while his friend and neighbor, 
Rev. John D. Pierce is counted the father of the 
Michigan school system, Mr. Crary was its legisla- 
tive father, carrying into successful enactment into 
law the plans of Father Pierce. Mr. Crary became 


our representative in Congress and was so popular 
with his neighbors that the first male child born in 
the county was given his full name, Isaac E. Crary 

Mr. Crary was a partner in erecting the first 
flouring mill in the county. The inexhaustible beds 
of superior lime stone found at Bellevue proved a 
most valuable acquisition for Eaton and adjoining 
counties. The ashery here and the purchase of 
''black salts," for which they paid cash and which 
they made into saleratus, furnished almost the only 
cash known to the pioneers for many years. Trade 
was by barter and taxes were paid by ''road war- 
rants." Pioneers took jobs at cutting out State 
roads and took in pay "w^arrants" which were good 
for taxes if naught else. The Territorial Legisla- 
ture enacted in March, 1835, that "the County of 
Eaton shall be organized into a township by the 
name of Belleville, and the first township meeting 
shall be held at such place as the sheriff of Calhoun 
County shall appoint within said County of Eaton." 
The petitioners were poor penmen and the name 
misconstrued. That enactment has never been re- 
pealed but the name was never used in that form 
and Bellevue is doubtless now correct by "adverse 
possession" so to speak. 

The election was held as ordered in the log meet- 
ing house. At that time the township of five hun- 
dred seventy-six square miles contained but four 
inhabitants who had been here long enough to en- 


title tliem to vote: Reuben Fitzgerald, Sylvanus 
Hunsiker, Calvin Plielps and James Kimberly. 
They made Jolm T. Hayt clerk of the meeting and 
ordered Calvin Phelps to proclaim the polls open. 
This he did, stepping to the front, with his hat off, 
in a loud voice he proclaimed, ''The poll of this 
election is now open. I warn all men, under penalty 
of the law, to keep the peace." The four electors 
proceeded to elect each other to all the best offices 
and gave leaner ones to the later comers. All votes 
were cast within half an hour but, in accordance 
with the law, they sat the whole day through. There 
could be no question but it was a legal election. The 
law could now be enforced. 

At a meeting of the board May 8, 1841, it was first 
''resolved, that in the opinion of the board, the pub- 
lic good does not require the licensing of three places 
for the sale of spirituous liquors in this town; car- 
ried. Second, resolved that A. Grant have license 
for selling spirituous liquors. It was lost. Third, 
resolved, that license be granted to the stores in this 
village, with the exception of selling spirituous 
liquors. Carried. Fourth, resolved, that A. Grant 
have license, if he calls for it, with the exception of 
selling spirituous liquors and wines. Carried." 

The first sermon in Eaton County was delivered 
in 1833, at the house of Reuben Fitzgerald, by Rev. 
John D. Pierce of Marshall, a Presbyterian minister. 
In the spring of 1834, three Methodist families set- 
tled in the place and Rev. Mr. Hobart preached the 


first Methodist sermon. In the fall of 1834, Rev. 
Davison organized the first Methodist class, consist- 
ing of five members, J. Kimberly, leader. 

In 1835, there were in Bellevue the following: R. 
Fitzgerald, S. Hunsiker, D. Mason, Calvin Phelps, 
Asa Phelps, L. Campbell, John Hayt, J. Kimberly 
and J. Hutchinson, with their wives ; B. Bader, J. B. 
Crary, W. Streeter, N. F. Blossom, R. Slatel and 
J. Tripp, all single men. There was a saw mill and 
at this time a plat was made for a village and the 
sale of lots began at from $5 to $20 each. A log 
cabin was erected for school and meeting-house. On 
the 4th of August, John T. Hayt received his com- 
mission as postmaster. The office was established 
with the understanding that the mail was to be car- 
ried to Marshall once a week without cost to the 
government. Capt. Fitzgerald volunteered to carry 
the mail for four years for $15 a quarter or for what 
the office collected until that sum w^as reached. Re- 
ceipts for the first quarter were $2.25, postage being 
twenty-five cents for a letter. It was more than a 
year before the Captain received his full payment of 
$15, but by March, 1838, receipts were over $82 per 

The spring of 1835 arrived with no bridge across 
Battle Creek and no road leading northward. By 
subscriptions in Marshall and Bellevue $155 was 
raised for this purpose and the road opened to the 
Thornapple. There it stopped until Vermont Col- 


ony was settled when the road was continued to 

Inhabitants in Bellevue were very few but very 
patriotic in 1835. They resolved that July 4th should 
be celebrated according to program provided by 
committee. This was done and the Declaration of 
Independence was read by Rev. Asa Phelps and a 
dinner provided by the citizens. All this before 
there was any settler elsewhere within the county. 

In 1836, Lawrence Campbell built the first hotel. 
The years '36 and '37 brought new inhabitants, 
some of the names well known throughout the county 
in later years: the Woodbury brothers. Dr. Clark, 
E. Jarvis, S. Higgins, E. FoUett, E. Bond, two 
Averys, H. Jervis, Capt. Hickok, W. R. Carpenter, 
Willard Davis, G. S. Browning, J. T. Ellis, S. An- 
drews and others. Several of these soon after re- 
moved to Vermontville. 

In 1836, the first district school in the county was 
taught by Hepsebeth Hutchinson. The next year 
the school was taught by Willard Davis, Esq., who 
also did lay preaching on Sunday in the same log 
school house. 

Capt. J. W. Hickok attempted to reach his land 
four miles east with his worldly goods, as usual, 
drawn by an ox team. His wife 's foot came in con- 
tact with a small tree and her limb was broken. The 
Captain returned to Bellevue for help. Men made a 
rude litter and carried her back to the village where 
Dr. Carpenter set her limb. She remained in bed 


nine weeks and in tlie meantime, on September 7, 
1836, gave birth to the first male child born in the 
county, Isaac E. C. Hickok, afterward well known 
throughout the county; a student at Olivet College 
the first day its doors were opened as a college and 
later principal of schools in Charlotte, and later 
still a lawyer there. He was honored with county 
offices which in turn he honored. 

About this time a large boat was built with the 
purpose of boating lime down the Creek and into 
the Kalamazoo River. The boat was capsized on 
its first attempt and the enterprise ended in dis- 
aster as did the building of the first lime kiln, but 
the lime industry survived and is still an important 

An early historian relates that the pioneers of 
Bellevue were exceptionally fond of fun. I can here 
relate but one incident. Huckleberries were found 
in vast quantities in a swamp near Mr. Ackley's but 
only a preacher named Reynolds and one other man 
knew the exact location and this they refused to 
disclose. Hinman and Bracket determined to locate 
the pickers and went round the swamp in opposite 
directions, hallooing often but getting no response. 
Finally Hinman found a loaded bush and placing a 
handful in his mouth was compelled to cough. The 
coughing frightened the preacher who now pounded 
a tree and shouted *'steboy" and then ran out of 
the swamp and, without stopping, to Mr. Ackley's 
house where he reported that ''a very large bear 


had chased him out of the swamp ! ' ' The reverend 
preacher was soon afterward called elsewhere. 

Among others w^ho came to Bellevue in 1836 was 
Sylvester Day. I relate his experience not because 
it was exceptional but because it was typical. Com- 
ing all the way from Orleans County in New York 
with an ox team he reached Bellevue in October 
with his family, daughter and two sons. They built 
their shanty and slept in it the second night after 
arrival although it had no roof and their bed was 
planks split from a log. The roof was soon made of 
troughs dug from basswood logs and the floor split 
from the same. In this shanty they lived eighteen 
months. The following spring w^as so wet it was 
impossible to burn, and corn was planted among the 
logs. This crop was killed by early frost while it 
was yet green. That fall they sowed seven acres of 
wheat and from it secured a good crop and their 
prospects brightened. Before this harvest times 
were hard. Their means were exhausted. Flour 
was $25 a barrel and they were faced by hunger, 
but after that time they never knew want. 

Bellevue township comprised the entire county 
until March 11, 1837, when Vermontville was set 
off to comprise the northwest quarter of the county 
and Eaton the southeast quarter. The following 
year Oneida was organized to include the northeast 
quarter. Each of these was afterward divided into 
four of our present townships. 


As we have seen the township of Bellevue com- 
prised the whole of Eaton County until, by act of 
legislature approved March 11, 1837, it was subdi- 
vided and the Township of Eaton was created com- 
prising the whole of the southeast quarter of the 
county. Who was the first settler of this vast area? 
To be the first in any laudable enterprise is always 
a coveted honor, and the title ofttimes in dispute. 
''First in war, first in peace and first in the hearts 
of his countrymen," was written of George Wash- 
ington but if you ask a republican, today, to whom 
the description applies, he will at once think of his 
well beloved McKinley. He was first in one war 
and first in the hearts of some of his countrymen. 
If you ask a democrat he will perhaps choose to 
divide the honor between Woodrow Wilson who was 
first in one war and Wm. J. Bryan who is sometimes 
in peace. So, too, the honor of this first settlement 
is contested. I have a letter by John Montgomery 
saying, "I came to Eaton County the 1st of January, 
1836. I was the first settler in the east half of the 
county." This would doubtless be true if he had 
added, "with the exception of one residence in the 
extreme west, near the present site of Charlotte." 
I have also a history written, printed and sold forty 
years ago in which I read, ''The first settler near the 



beautiful prairie where now stands the city of Char- 
lotte, was Jonathan Searls, a veteran of the war of 
1812. He settled with his family, on the southeast 
corner of the prairie in November, 1836." 

E. A. Foote, Esq., gave very much study to this 
early history. He was painstaking and thorough. 
He had facilities for deciding disputed points as no 
one can have at this time. He wrote with detail 
of circumstance and vouched for the accuracy and 
truth of his statements. Mr. Foote read a paper 
before the Eaton County Pioneer Society in 1877, in 
which he said, "Jonathan and Samuel Searls found 
their way through from Bellevue in October, 1835. 
They left Mrs. Searls at Bellevue until they could 
cut a track through for a team. They worked five 
days cutting this track, and then hired a team to 
bring Mrs. Searls and the household goods through. 
Jonathan and Samuel had no team to work with for 
one year after they came. By their o^\ti unaided 
strength they had to cut and move to the spot the 
logs for Samuel Searls' house, and then raise the 
logs to their places on the building. When these two 
men rolled up these logs there was not another house 
or family within eight miles." 

The first land purchased of the government with- 
in the limits of the present Township of Eaton was, 
as already related, by G. W. Barns in 1832, in the 
heart of the present city of Charlotte. He lived at 
Gull Prairie and never settled here. In 1833, land 
was bought here by J. Torrey and by H. G. Rice, but 


I find no notice of land purchased in 1834. In 1835, 
land was purchased by S. Hamlin, T. R. Smith, S. 
Aulls, S. Searls, J. Searls, T. Lawrence, R. J. Wells, 
C E. Stewart, and L. H. Sanf ord. In 1836, purchas- 
ers were numerous, including A, Spicer, H. Janes, 
W. Wall, H. and E. Moe, D. Bryant, 0. D. Butler, 
0. J. Holcomb, J. F. Pixley, W. D. Thompson, W. 
and J. and G. Southworth, A. Smoke, P. W^hitcomb, 
A. L. Baker, and Amos Kinne. 

To Mr. Foote I am again indebted for the follow- 

''Wm. Wall and J. F. Pixley came from Niagara 
County, New York, in June, 1836. Leaving their 
families for a time at Sandstone, in Jackson County, 
the two men came into Eaton upon section 25. About 
the first of July, 1837, they moved their families in 
and it was ten weeks before their wives saw any 
person save their families and numerous Indians." 

In October, 1836, four months after locating six 
miles east of Charlotte, Mr. Wall first became aware 
of the existence of the prairie where now stands 
Charlotte. He then learned that the Searls broth- 
ers and Stephen and Amos Kinne were ahead of 
him in settling here. These with Mr. Wall and Mr. 
Pixley were the only men in Eaton Township. Dur- 
ing the same October, 1836, James, George and Wm. 
Southworth moved in from Orleans County, New 
York, and built on section 24 near Mr. Wall's, thus 
adding to the "Wall Settlement." (Here are con- 
flicting dates. Wall discovered Kinne in October, 


1836, but we are assured elsewhere that the Kinne 
brothers came in January, 1837. It is probable 
that this discovery and the arrival of the South- 
worths was in 1837.) The first schoolhouse in the 
four townships was built in the Wall neighborhood 
in 1839, but the first school was taught by the wife 
of John Eiley in her house. During the winter of 
1836- '37, Mr. Wall went to mill with an ox team 
to Swainsville, twenty miles beyond Jackson, but 
during the next year a mill was started in Jackson 
only thirty miles away. 

Facts from E. A. Foote's oration: The first birth 
in the east half of the county, and the second in the 
entire county, was Phoebe K. Searls, daughter of 
Samuel Searls, born on August 7, 1836. The mother, 
Eutli Searls, died of quick consumption the follow- 
ing June when this child was but ten months old, one 
of the most pathetic deaths of which we can read. 
The men were in the field at work. No one else, 
save the infant, was in the house when she died 
about sunset. There was only one other woman for 
many miles around. Stephen Kinne and wife and 
brother Amos had found their way in on the first day 
of January, 1837. They had built a log house six- 
teen feet square just south of Battle Creek and two 
miles south of Charlotte. Stephen Kinne and wife 
crossing the creek upon a log and going northeast 
across the present fair ground, they reached the 
house of mourning about dark and remained all 
night. As no coffin was to be had here she had to 


be taken to Bellevue for decent burial. Japhet 
Fisber, their hired man, started before daylight for 
Bellevue to prepare for the funeral. They put bed- 
ding into the box of an ox sled upon which they 
placed the lifeless form. Samuel and Jonathan, with 
their oxen drawing the sled over rough roads and 
fording streams, went to Bellevue, while Stephen 
Kinne and wife remained to care for the children. 
Again quoting Mr. Foote, ''Uncle Samuel was very 
badly dressed for such an occasion. He had worn 
out all of his clothes working hard to build a home 
for that woman. His corduroy pants were in tatters 
clear to his knees. His ' wa 'mus ' was very ragged. A 
fragment of an old woolen cap was on his head. But 
Japhet Fisher sent his trunk of clothes by David 
Kinne, then on his way to meet Samuel. They met 
at the Indian village in Walton and Uncle Samuel 
was decently dressed. The hearts of Bellevue 
people quickly responded to the call of Japhet 
Fisher. They turned out to meet the ox team. The 
women took hold and laid her tenderly in a coffin 
and the next day the rites were performed. Like 
many another mother she succumbed to unendur- 
able hardship of pioneer life. 

"Although Uncle Samuel had to take the young 
babe back to New^ York, though his home and hopes 
were blasted, he did not give up. He brought back 
his sister Julia to keep house for him. They had 
built a house for Uncle Jonathan further west, on 
Searls street. Jonathan went east and in Novem- 


ber, 1837, he brought back his wife, Aunt Sally 
Searls. On their way in from Bellevue they stayed 
over night at Capt. Hickok's in WaltoUo" 

It was this log house of Uncle Jonathan 's that be- 
came, for a time, the headquarters for the county. 
Aunt Sally did the county cooking for years. It was 
perhaps her efficiency and popularity that gave rise 
to the claim that Jonathan Searls was the first set- 
tler. Aunt Sally's arrival was more than two years 
after the Searls brothers had first settled here, still 
she reports, "We seldom saw a woman." 

Samuel Hamlin was the first supervisor in the 
township and also the first treasurer, but Wm. Wall 
was one of the most widely known of the pioneers, 
and a good specimen of them he proved to be. He 
had the will and the energy to encounter the hard- 
ships of pioneer life and to clear away the dense 
forest. "He was a good farmer, a good father, a 
good neighbor, a valuable citizen and in every sense 
of the word a good man. ' ' The first girl born in the 
township was his daughter Euth. The first religious 
meeting was held in his house, the sermon being 
delivered by Rev. Jackson. The first marriage was 
also in his house when in 1837 Otis V. Cranson mar- 
ried Elizabeth Babcock. In the fall of 1838 Mr. 
Wall narrowly escaped hydrophobia. A large rabid 
wolf passed through biting every animal he could 
meet. He bit several hogs for his neighbors and 
three for Mr. Wall. Not thinking that the wolf was 
rabid he put his valuable dog in pursuit. He fol- 


lowed with liis axe and soon found the dog and wolf 
in deadly embrace. Mr. Wall seized the wolf by the 
tail from which he found it difficult and dangerous 
to let go. After a fearful tussle of a full hour (or 
so it seemed) the man and dog were victorious and 
the wolf was killed and for it he received a bounty of 
eight dollars. The dog and hogs all went mad about 
a week later and all had to be killed. 

The first framed barns in Eaton were built by 
James Pixley and N. P. Frink and one soon after 
by Amos Kinne. At this raising Samuel Searls was 
the boss. He ordered the men to set up the bent. 
They, thinking it was fully up, made no move. Then 
with an oath he said, ''I say, set it up there." They 
did and the bent went clear over, but none were 

James Southworth was the first of his family to 
move in, ' ' settling with his family in February, 1837. 
(Thus confirming my surmise written above.) He 
built a log house during the winter, heating the 
stones for the chimney back that the mortar might 
stick to them ; the chimney was then built of mud and 

Among the early settlers were A. L. Baker, 
Benijah Claflin, Geo. Allen and his sons Sidney and 
Harry, Nathan P. Frink, Jonas and John Childs. 
In 1844, there were 59 male residents in the present 
Township of Eaton. They came at first by way of 
Kalamazoo, then Battle Creek, Gull Prairie and 
Bellevue. Later they learned of a shorter route to 


Eaton County, viz. "gee off" at Jackson and "liaw 
to " at Spicerville ; tlius men were located but a few 
miles apart and not to discover each other for one 
or even two years; and hence conflicting claims to 
priority of settlement. 

Indians were everywhere but quite harmless to 
the pioneers of Eaton County. Never rapping at the 
door, but with moccasined feet they entered our 
homes as silent as a cat to utter their cheerful 
"hello" which was pronounced, glumly, "Ugh," in 
the startled ear of the busy housewife. Wild ber- 
ries were found and wild game was abundant and 
furnished much of the living of the early pioneers. 
Venison suiDplied the place of beef and mutton, so 
fully that I was quite a grown lad before I learned 
the taste of beef. Animals that would soon grow 
into the much needed oxen and cows were not to be 
readily slaughtered. In fact the earlier trappers, 
living almost entirely upon hunted animals, called 
the flesh of the fatter animals meat, but the lean 
venison of the deer took the place of, and by them 
was often called "bread." Fierce animals abounded 
but, unless attacked, were seldom in any measure 
dangerous. Packs of wolves could often be heard 
howling at night but, like bears, they were shy and 
very seldom seen, but both were sufficiently com- 
mon to commit unwelcome depredations. Pork was 
the favorite meat for bears, but wolves took the 
sheep and small young animals. I have heard many 
stories of wolves following at the heels of a man 


walking through the forest at night and carrying 
fresh meat upon his back, but never of actual at- 
tack. If he carried a. torch, which was a needed ac- 
cessory, he avoided any possible danger by turning 
and swinging this in the faces of his pursuers. The 
following approaches as near to an actual attack as 
any authentic story I have read so I quote it entire : 
''In the fall of 1837, Wm. Wall, Chauncy Free- 
man, James Pixley and George and James South- 
worth went on a deer hunt in the north part of the 
township, on a branch of the Thornapple River. J. 
Southw^orth stationed himself on the runway, while 
the others separated for the purpose of driving in 
the deer. Ere long they heard the report of South- 
worth's rifle, followed quickly by a second, and next 
they heard him call. They returned at once and 
found he had been beset by two large gray wolves. 
He had seen three of them passing and shot one, 
whereupon the others turned and came close to him, 
one on each side, before he had time to reload. As 
one of the animals stepped back a little Southworth 
poured some powder into his rifle and rolled a bullet 
down, and shot the brute in the neck, but did not 
kill him. At that juncture Wm. Wall appeared, and 
the wounded wolf went into a thicket. Pixley, Free- 
man and Wall followed, to drive him out, while the 
two Southworths stood ready to shoot. Mr. Freeman 
came upon the wolf lying down and looking him 
in the face. He forgot to shoot. The brute ran out 
of the thicket and George Southworth shot him. Mr. 


Wall said tlie wolf was the largest he ever saw, 
standing as high as his waist." 

Some wolf, eh ! brother pioneers ? But exaggera- 
tion can well be forgiven. It was an exciting 
occasion. The w^olves would not probably have 
come near Mr. Southworth if he had refrained from 
shooting. His temerity cost them all a good scare. 
Such were the vicissitudes of pioneer life in Eaton 


The township now called Hamlin was, as we have 
seen, for a time a part of Bellevue and later of 
Eaton Township. By act of legislature approved 
March 20, 1841, it was ''set off and organized into 
a township by the name of Tyler, and the first town- 
ship meeting shall be held at the house of Freeman 
H. Barr in said township." It was evidently named 
for John Tyler, then vice president, but the legis- 
lature could scarcely have foreseen that within a 
month John Tyler should become president to fill 
out three years and eleven months of Taylor 's presi- 
dential term. The township so remained for nine 
years until the village of Eaton Rapids having 
grown upon its north boundary line, and the town 
meetings and most of the offices being held in the 
village it was petitioned to have the two united. By 
act of legislature March 14, 1850, the two were 
united in one with the name of Eaton Rapids, and 
the first meeting "shall be held at the Eaton Rapids 
Hotel on the first Monday in April, 1850." It was 
provided that the present officers shall cast lots to 
see which shall continue in office to conduct the elec- 

This union continued nineteen years until by act 
approved March 26, 1869, this township was again 
detached and given the name of Hamlin after one 



of its early and distinguislied settlers, Samuel Ham- 
lin. Of its earliest settlement there is no dispute. 

Five townships in Eaton County were first set- 
tled in 1836, but John Montgomery led them all by 
settling here on the first day of January. A man of 
such sterling worth and enterprise as to demand 
here extended biography. A descendant of the 
proud and ancient Scottish family of Montgomery, 
he was born in the north of Ireland and brought 
here when but one year old, and lived for some time 
in Oneida County, New York. On March 2, 1831, 
he set out on foot for Michigan. He walked all the 
way through Canada and back again, reaching home 
the last day of March. He had purchased one hun- 
dred sixty acres in Washtenaw County. Here he 
learned what many pioneers were very slow to learn, 
that burr-oak plains are very much more desirable 
than heavily timbered lands. In 1835 he sold out 
for $2150 and started in December for the wilds of 
Eaton County. He purchased nearly five hundred 
acres on ' ' Montgomery Plains. ' ' On reaching home 
he returned almost immediately, taking a yoke of 
oxen and accompanied by his brother Robert and 
Mr. Shepherd. From Henrietta, Jackson County, 
they cut their road for twenty miles and spent three 
days building a shanty. He returned for his 
family and on January first moved in, having 
hired a Mr. Nobles to come with one team. 
His brother Robert and Mr. Bush also came. 
$2150 was a princely sum in those days and the wis- 


dom of Ms selection of burr-oak plains was quickly 
demonstrated. He was able to sow sixty acres of 
wheat the first year and realized a good crop which 
found ready sale at his door at $1.00 a bushel, for 
neighbors were now surrounding him. Col. Mont- 
gomery was elected supervisor a number of times 
and in 1849 he was elected to the State legislature. 
He began his military career in Washtenaw County, 
was minute man in the Black Hawk War and, pre- 
vious to the Toledo hostilities, was commissioned 
as Major and promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel. 
When in the legislature he was commissioned by 
Governor Barry as Brigadier-General, but the earl- 
ier title clung to him as to ''Teddy" Roosevelt. He 
was alway Colonel to his friends and admirers. But 
to return to his neighbors. 

Land was purchased from the government in 
Hamlin in 1835 by twenty-three different persons 
and in 1836 by eighty-one, a list far too extended 
to recite here. Doubtless some of these were specu- 
lators who never saw the land. 

The Colonel's first neighbor was Silas Loomis, 
six miles away. Ira Turner and J. W. Toles came 
soon and a little later Elijah Wilcox. In September 
came Johnson Montgomery. His land on ''Mont- 
gomery Plains" was across the town line but for 
a time he made his home with his brother the Col- 
onel. The first township meeting was at Spicerville 
and from a published article by Fred Spicer, I copy : 

"I came to Eaton County with my father, Amos 


Spicer, my mother, two sisters, my uncle, P. E. 
Spicer, and cousin, Daniel Bateman, all from Mid- 
dlebury, Ohio. On the third day of June, 1836, we 
landed at Spicerville and found a double log house 
which my father and uncle, P. E. Spicer, Daniel 
Bateman, Benjamin Knight, Charles Hanchet and 
son had built. It was without door or window, but 
had puncheon for floors and boxwood bark for upper 
floor, w^hich material they procured from the forest 
without the help of saw mill for there was no mill 
of any description nearer than Clinton, fifty miles 
from us and no neighbor, as we believed, nearer 
than twelve miles, save the red man's wigwam. 

''This region was without a road except the old 
Clinton road which my uncle Samuel Hamlin and 
C. C. Darling had cut through from Clinton to the 
Thornapple Eiver the fall before. This road had 
just been completed and accepted when Amos and 
P. E. Spicer and Daniel Bateman arrived at Jack- 
son in the fall of 1835. Amos Spicer had come to 
seek a home and would like to find a good water- 
power as he purposed to build a saw and grist mill 
if he could find a good location. Uncle Samuel Ham- 
lin and Mr. Darling told him that Grand River and 
Spring Brook both had good powers. With knap- 
sacks stored with blankets, pork, beans and sand- 
wiches they started for the north woods with no 
guides save the blazed trees of the government 
surveys made some twelve years before. 

"This party consisted of Amos and P. E. Spicer, 


Samuel Hamlin, Daniel Bateman and C. C. Darling. 
They spent over a week wandering around and 
looking over lands even to where Eaton Rapids now 
stands. Amos Spicer had saved money as master 
millwright and considerable of the lands they se- 
lected was taken by him as the records still show. 
When their grub was gone they feasted, not on 
'locust and wild honey' but upon wild honey and 
wild turkey, both of which abounded. A tiresome 
journey brought them back to Jackson and the next 
day they started for the land office at Kalamazoo to 
secure the lands they had selected before anyone 
should jump their claims as was often done by a set 
of hawk-eyed fellows often lying in wait about the 
land office. They got back to Jackson about De- 
cember 1st, 1835, and then returned to their home 
in Ohio. The next spring Amos and P. E. Spicer 
returned to Michigan with a strong wagon laden 
with provisions and household goods and drawn by 
four yoke of oxen and these driven by Daniel Bate- 
man and Charles Hanchet. A one-horse wagon, two 
cows and a calf escorted them. They reached Jack- 
son about the 25th of May and the next day started 
for the woods at Spicerville where they built the 
cabin before described and which we reached on the 
third day of June, 1836. ' ' 

As soon as possible a sawmill was started upon 
the same site where three successive mills have 
stood. The family consisted of all those named 
above with George Allyn and about fourteen hired 


men. The three women here were, as always among 
pioneers, fully as active as the men for in addition 
to these they had to feed two to four land lookers 
and shelter them over night for they had nowhere 
else to go. All timber and lumber used in construct- 
ing this mill was hewn by hand from the forest 
products. After a long summer's work the mill be- 
gan to turn its water wheel in October and sawing 
by water power was begun. P. E. Spicer and Ben- 
jamin Knight were boss sa^\^ers. They found 
ready market for what lumber they could spare but 
most of their cut was used for the gristmill and 
three framed houses they w^ere starting at Eaton 
Rapids. This beginning of a village was all sawed, 
framed and hauled from Spicerville. A rude vil- 
lage plat was surveyed early in the spring of 1836. 
Two ox sleds drawn by four yoke of oxen hauled the 
first run of stone to the mill in Eaton Rapids where 
they continued to grind for more than forty years. 
Previous to this corn had been pounded upon flat 
stumps for meal and wheat flour was almost un- 
known, TMien the mill was raised men came twenty 
miles to help. Bateman and Knight spent two days 
inviting men. They came the night before ; helped 
raise the mill the next day, had a dance at night, and 
went home the third day. 

Fred Knight again relates the discovery of their 
neighbors : ' * The first we knew we had neighbors 
on Montgomery's Plains, one of our cows strayed 
away and Daniel Bateman, while looking for it, came 


to tlie river and, hearing some cowbell on the other 
side, pulled off his boots and pants and crossed over 
and followed until he found the cattle. Hearing 
someone pounding a little further on went on to 
where he found John Montgomery splitting rails 
on the farm where his stone house now stands. 
Meeting a stranger in the woods we would learn his 
location, section, town and range and know his dis- 
tance thereby from our habitation. Thus chance 
acquaintances soon became neighbors and soon 
friends, tried and true, helping each other in divers 
ways at raisings and logging bees for those who had 
nothing. All of this helped to bind us together as 
in one family as only can be witnessed in pioneer 
settlements. ' ' 

Hon. Amos Spicer was one of the most highly 
honored and esteemed citizens. 

Allen Conklin assisted in building the first bridge 
across Grand River at the county line. 

Rev. Wm. W. Crane was the first resident minister 
and is said to have married all the people and to 
have preached all the funeral sermons. 

George W. Bentley, Jacob Gilman and T. N. 
Stringham were among early settlers and the list of 
resident taxpayers in 1844 includes one hundred one 
names. Wm. W. Crane was the first supervisor 
thus supervising their ways on earth as well as the 
way to heaven. 

The first teacher in Tyler was Miss Ruth Horn 
who taught in 1837 in the shanty of George Y. 


Cowan. Miss Lucina Emerson taught in 1838, and 
previous to 1849 tliirty-six teachers had been li- 
censed in this township. 

One numerous family, because of their priority in 
several aspects, merit especial mention. Six broth- 
ers named Montgomery were early pioneers of 
Hamlin and its immediate vicinity. The father of 
these was Eobert Montgomery of Ireland but of 
Scottish descent. When twenty-one years old he mar- 
ried Anna Sproul, then but seventeen. They became 
the parents of sixteen children, ten of whom lived 
to maturity. Three years after their marriage, in 
the fall of 1805, they emigrated to America then hav- 
ing one son, John, one year old. His story I have al- 
ready told — settling in Hamlin on the first day of 
January, 1836, and believing himself the earliest 
settler in the east half of the county although it 
proved later that the Searls brothers, on the prairie 
near Charlotte, had preceded him. He became the 
father of four children, Alvira, Johnson, Scott, and 

His brother Johnson was a pioneer here a little 
later but the same season. He became father of 
seven, viz: Peter Dudley, Helen, Amanda, Celesta, 
Ezra, Jock and Robert. The latter became Supreme 
Court Judge in Michigan. 

Thomas, of whom I learn but little, became father 
of Eliza, Philinda, Mary and Warren. 

Robert, I have already mentioned as one of the 
earliest comers, became father of Alonzo, Almeron, 


Clifford, Sarah, Fred and Frank. Clifford and 
Fred, I think are still living in 1922. 

William, the fifth brother, came at a little later 
date. He became father of Elmina, Martin V., 
Richard A., William B., Louisa and Malvina. Of 
these Martin V. was doubtless best known, a prom- 
inent attorney of Eaton Rapids and Lansing, Com- 
missioner of Patents at Washington, then Judge of 
District Court, D. C, then returned to Lansing as- 
piring to U. S. Senate which, unfortunately, he did 
not reach. His brother Richard was also a promi- 
nent lawyer of Lansing. The next brother, William 
B., is now residing in Detroit and to him I am in- 
debted for much of this information. 

The youngest of the six pioneer brothers was 
Alexander who had no children. He with his broth- 
er William, went to California in 1849, the earliest of 
the argonauts, going around ''the horn" in a sailing 
vessel and being at one time fifty-six days without 
sight of land. I do not learn that they returned with 
acquired wealth but they certainly acquired addi- 
tional pioneer experiences. 


Considering the townships of the county in their 
order of settlement we now skip diagonally across 
the county to Vermontville. Its history is unique. 
The first land ever purchased in the county was on 
section 30 in this township by A. Sumner in 1829. 
Why selected or purchased, nor of its disposition, 
we know not. Perhaps like the second purchase 
which was in Oneida, ''It was sold for taxes four 
years later." Excepting for this one purchase it 
was an unbroken government parcel when the agents 
of the colony arrived to make their selection. 

The Vermont Colony was essentially a religious 
colony of Congregationalists who planned as nearly 
as possible after the model of the Pilgrim Fathers. 

In 1835, the Rev. Sylvester Cochrane visited Mich- 
igan planning to settle permanently but he found 
settlers so scattered that it seemed impossible that 
they might have either religious or educational ad- 
vantages. He conceived the plan of colonization 
and returned to East Pultney and Castleton, Ver- 
mont, and disclosed his plans to prospective emi- 
grants. On March 27, 1836, at a large meeting, 
plans were perfected. Very extended ''Eules and 
Regulations ' ' were adopted and signed. After num- 
erous ''whereases" and "resolved," eleven definite 
rules were adopted, among them to liberally sup- 



port the gospel, to observe the Sabbath and to ''per- 
petuate the same literary privileges we are here per- 
mitted to enjoy." Forty-two men signed this and 
a prohibition pledge was signed by all. It was 
"voted" that a committee of two be appointed to 
investigate the character and standing of all appli- 
cants to unite with the colony; that three agents be 
selected to visit Michigan and select suitable lands ; 
that they be authorized to purchase 5,760 acres of 
land, nine square miles or the fourth of a township ; 
that no individual should be permitted to take more 
than one farm of 160 acres and one village lot of 
ten acres; that anyone joining the colony shall ad- 
vance $212.50, the price of the 170 acres ; that each 
one shall also give his note for $25 payable in two 
years to apply toward building a meeting-house. 

Rev. S. Cochrane and I. C. Culver were chosen 
the committee for investigating characters of appli- 
cants and Col. J. B. Scovill, Deacon S. S. Church 
and Wm. G. Henry were elected agents to select and 
purchase l^nds. 

They started from Vermont April 2, 1836, and 
S. S. Church afterward wrote an extended descrip- 
tion of their journey and research from which I 
quote as follows : 

"From Troy, New York, we started on our ex- 
pedition by stage. The roads were extremely bad 
and much of the time we made but two miles an hour 
and were obliged to travel by night which was very 
fatiguing. We spent the first Sabbath at Auburn. 


We planned to go through Canada but at Lewiston 
we were advised not to attempt it because of the 
condition of the roads. We changed our plan and 
went to Buffalo, Lake Erie was frozen over so we 
continued by stage to Erie, Pennsylvania. Ice had 
so cleared that a boat would start for Detroit soon. 
Here we arrived safely but were obliged to wait a 
day and night for the stage. Here again the roads 
were bad and the stage an open wagon. We were 
greatly fatigued upon our arrival at Battle Creek. 
We went to Kalamazoo and returned to Battle Creek 
and thence to Grand Rapids. We obtained a gTiide 
and, other colonists joining us, we explored Barry 
county and returned to Battle Creek. We found it 
very difficult to find a tract of land unbroken by 
swamps, marshes and cat-holes and were well nigh 

''AATiile recruiting at Battle Creek we met Col. 
Barns of Gull Prairie, who had assisted in survey- 
ing Eaton County, had purchased land on the prairie 
near its center and had secured for it the future 
county seat. He assured us the amount of land re- 
quired could be found in the present township of 
Vermontville and he accompanied us to the land 
office where I obtained a plat and found that but a 
single entry had been made. I there received a 
letter from others of our colony who were exploring 
in Ionia County. At Battle Creek we met others of 
our newly arrived colonists. We were two days 
procuring supplies and reaching our destination. 


The third day we explored the grounds that pleased 
us. All were satisfied. We went to Kalamazoo and 
on May 27, 1836, I purchased the land the colonists 
needed and about twenty lots in addition for others. 
We then returned to the purchase and selected the 
south half of section 21 for the village. W. J. Squier 
had his surveying instruments with him and we laid 
out the village as planned in Vermont. 

''I returned to Vermont for my family but W. J. 
Squier, W. S. Fairfield, Samuel and Charles Shel- 
don, Levi Merrill, C. T. Moffitt and others stayed 
and commenced chopping and clearing. They built 
a house for the use of colonists upon their arrival, 
and homes for themselves. I returned to Vermont 
to bring my family. Counting a man 'settled' only 
when his wife is with him, Bezaleel Taft was the 
first settler, coming in that summer with his family. 
Reuben Sanford moved in v/ith his wife and one 
child and soon after a son was born being the first 
birth in Vermontville. During the fall Jacob Fuller 
and wife, E. S. Mead and wife, Jay Hawkins with 
wife and child, and Mrs. Fairfield arrived. 

* ' On the first Monday in October, agreeable to the 
articles of the colony, a large number of the col- 
onists assembled at the colony house, and after 
prayer by Rev. Cochrane they proceeded to distrib- 
ute the lands agreeable to the ninth resolution of 
the articles. It was voted to appoint a committee 
to make an assessment upon those farm lots which, 
by location, were most desirable and valuable, to 


raise tlie sum of $400 for expenses incurred by the 
purchasing agents. Tliey then voted to distribute 
the farm lots by lot, and each man drew and was 
satisfied. I arrived at Battle Creek with my wife 
and six children about the middle of November, 
1836. Such was the condition of the roads it took 
nine days to come from Detroit to Battle Creek by 
wagon. All colonists had agreed to settle upon their 
land by the autumn of '37 or their money might be 
returned and their land sold to another. Several 
colonists arrived at this time with their families, 
among them Rev. Cochrane. 

"The road from Bellevue, a mere underbrushed 
trail, was now so cut with travel that it was well 
nigh impassable. Some families were compelled to 
camp out in the woods over night. Mud was every- 
where and the Thornapple River overflowed its 
banks so that, although there was a bridge, it was 
at times impossible to approach it. 

**In the month of April, 1837, W. J. Squier ar- 
rived at 'the bottoms' and the water was so high 
that neither his family nor his teams could cross 
over. We learned of this and Roger Griswold and 
W. S. Fairchild waded the river and took provisions 
and took them to an Indian shanty not far off where 
they stayed all night. The next morning Mr. Gris- 
wold ferried Mrs. Squier and her little child across 
the stream then some sixty rods in width. During 
this month the Rev. Calvin Clark of Marshall visited 
us and preached the first sermon here before our 


pastor and his family had arrived. Twenty-five 
years later he again preached to us at our quarter 
century celebration. 

''In the month of March, 1837, the wife of E. S. 
Mead sickened and died very suddenly. There was 
no physician to be had; the ladies did what they 
could but in vain. During the season S. S. Hoyt, 
who lived six miles from any white inhabitant, and 
whose wife had not seen a woman for many months, 
brought his wife on an ox sled to the colony. After 
two or three weeks she returned home rejoicing in 
the possession of a fine daughter. Nor was this an 
isolated case. One from Chester occurred the same 
season and one from a remote part of our town. 

''Indians resided part of the time in our vicinity 
for several years. They were never troublesome 
but gladly exchanged their product for ours. Sev- 
eral families of Indians came from Canada and re- 
mained here about a year. They were more civilized 
than our Indians and could talk very good English. 
They hunted and trapped and took jobs at chopping. 
Some of them were devoted Christians, held Sabbath 
meetings or attended our church. One of their 
squaws died here and their men made a coffin and 
desired Christian burial. Rev. Mr. Day had 
preached at Mackinaw and was at this time laboring 
with a Methodist class here. He preached the ser- 
mon through an interpreter, the Indians attending. 

"AVolves were abundant but seldom troublesome 
except by their nightly serenades and occasionally 


taking a young animal. We often found tliey fol- 
lowed us when we went to a neighbor's in the eve- 
ning but unseen by us. In the fall of 1836, Orin Dick- 
inson came from Bellevue, driving a horse team. 
Roger Griswold started to drive the team back to 
Bellevue. Night overtook him in the woods and he 
found it impossible to proceed. Thinking he was 
near Bellevue he ventured to halloo. He was an- 
swered by a wolf. On calling again others answered 
from different directions until it culminated in a 
grand wolf chorus, continuing to cheer the gloomy 
hours the whole night through with their heart thrill- 
ing melody. ' ' 

Mr. Church wrote a long story of a lad, five years 
old, who was lost in the woods and the whole colony 
searched for him two days and finally found him un- 
injured save by the mosquitoes; and of a cow that 
was lodged during high water of the Thornapple 
upon two large logs where she remained several 
days until the water subsided. Feed was carried 
to her in a boat for several days whereupon she was 
milked and the milk boated homeward. He tells too 
of a memorable bear hunt joined in by all the col- 
onists. Bruin was killed and his pelt sold for $4.00 
and with the proceeds a Sunday school library was 

The first frame house was built by W. J. Squier 
and the first brick house by Roger Griswold. With 
characteristic energy he employed masons from 
Battle Creek who laid the basement wall and walls 


for the GMtire two stories within two weeks and re- 
turned home. 

The first school was in the summer of 1838, in a 
private house. In the fall a log schoolhouse was 
erected in which schools were regularly taught three 
or four months every summer by a female teacher 
and for the same time each winter by a male teacher. 
In 1843 an academic association was formed to 
build a structure to serve the double purpose of 
academy and a church. Rev. Wm. U. Benedict, a 
Presbyterian minister, a graduate of Williams Col- 
lege and of Auburn Seminary, was employed as 
teacher for several years. He came from his pas- 
torate in Cayuga County, New York. This academy 
was generally attended by the aspiring teachers of 
this and Barry Counties, thus Vermontville became 
the "Athens of Eaton County" until that proud 
title was won away by Olivet. 

An incident illustrates the piety of these Protes- 
tant pioneers. The founder of the colony, Rev. S. 
Cochrane, was absent minded and very little given 
to manual labor but he became enamored of the en- 
ticing task of maple sugar making. One Sunday in 
springtime the colonists were assembled for wor- 
ship but no pastor appeared. After long delay a 
committee was appointed to visit his home and 
learn of his possible sickness or death. (No tele- 
phones at that time. ) They finally found him in his 
sugar bush diligently boiling sap and entirely ob- 
livious of the sacred character of the day. He had 


failed to "remember" tlie Sabbath day. They 
never forgave him. Rev. AV. U. Benedict succeeded 
him in the pastorate. 

This township was organized by act of legislature 
approved March 11, 1837, to include the northw^est 
one-quarter of the county. Three other townships 
have since been taken from this territory. 

Daniel Barber and E. H. Barber, I think not 
named above, were early and very prominent resi- 
dents here. In April, 1837, a special election was 
held to fill a vacancy in the legislature caused by 
the death of Ezra Convis. Twelve votes w^ere cast, 
all for Sands McCamly. In 1844, there were re- 
corded fifty-nine resident taxpayers. 

The assessor's books show the following products 
of the town in 1846 : 419 tons of hay, 395 bushels of 
rye, 1884 bushels of wheat, 371 bushels of barley, 
5100 pounds of beef, 48,125 pounds of pork, 7,350 
pounds of butter, 1,330 pounds of cheese, 12,430 
pounds of maple sugar, 1,463 pounds of wool, 140 
pounds of flax, 1,383 bushels of oats, 4,353 of corn, 
59 of buckwheat, 3,993 of potatoes. 

The first hotel keeper was Wells R. Martin. The 
following were the early supervisors in order : W. J. 
Squier, E. H. Barber, Henry Robinson, Wells R. 
Martin, Henry Robinson, W. U. Benedict, Willard 
Davis, W. S. Frink, Roger Griswold, Artemas 
Smith, R. W. Griswold, Willard Davis, Wells R. 

The proudest product of Vermontville, and per- 


liaps of the entire county, is tlie Hon. Ed. W. Bar- 
ber, reared in Vermontville from liis eleventh year 
to early manhood when he became clerk of our State 
Legislature, then of United States Congress for a 
term of years and later assistant postmaster gen- 
eral during the Grant administration and still 
later editor of the Jackson Patroit, when his edi- 
torials for their pungency and erudition became 
famed through many States. He has twice given 
most able and eloquent orations at our annual 
pioneer meetings. Now in his ninety-sixth year he 
resides in Florida but writes with the vigor of early 
manhood. I append the following item from his 

"In October, 1839, when my father, E. H. Barber, 
moved in with his wife, four boys, an ox team, wagon 
and cow, we left Bellevue before the sun was up, 
and stopped long enough in the woods to eat a 
lunch, feed the oxen and extract some milk from 
the brindle cow, and about nine o'clock in the eve- 
ning arrived in Vermontville in a rain storm which 
set in at the close of the day. S. B. Gates owned 
the first log house and he came out with an old 
fashioned tin lantern and a tallow dip to light and 
guide us to our destination a mile further on. For 
a mile or two north of Bellevue the road had been 
chopped out four rods wide, and also for half a 
mile or so south of Vermontville. The rest of the 
way the track was through the woods and some- 
times hard to find on account of the fallen leaves. 


But we made a mile an liour that last one of eight 
days from Detroit and three weeks from Benson, 
Vermont, and reached our stumpy Canaan at last. ' ' 


By act of the legislature approved February 16, 
1842, the Township of Sunfield was separated from 
its parent township, Vermontville, organized and 
given its present name and the first township meet- 
ing was ordered to be held at the house of Ezra E. 
Peck, in said township. There were no land entries 
in this township previous to 1836, but in that year 
of the great stampede for the wilds of Michigan, 
and particularly to Eaton County, the records show 
eighty-six entries here, doubtless many of them by 
speculators who never settled here. 

Sunfield primarily was, is and ever must remain, 
an agricultural township. It had not the water 
power, the beds of limestone, the ashery and salera- 
tus manufactory that created a village at Bellevue 
nor the rapids that gave water power and village 
sites to Spicerville, Eaton Rapids and Delta. It 
had not the attractive prairie that called Charlotte, 
nor the burr-oak plains that enabled a pioneer to 
plant sixty acres of wheat his first season. The 
growth of Sunfield was slower. The settlers here 
had not that ceaseless taste for frolic and horse-play 
that characterized Bellevue, nor the religious en- 
thusiasm of Vermontville. They were sturdy axe 
men who understood also the use of the rifle and 
shotgun. Their story is quickly told. Some of 



tliem devoted much time to hunting but they have 
not handed down to us the marvelous stories of bear 
and wolf hunts and this, perhaps, because they w^ere 
so common as to awaken but little comment. 

The first settler in the town was S. S. Hoyt who 
settled in summer of 1836. His daughter Elizabeth 
was the first child of white parents, but she was 
born in Vermontville, her mother having gone there 
for a short time as no neighbors were nearer. The 
first male children born here w^ere John Nead, Jr., 
and John Wells, son of Wm. A. Wells. Peter Kinne 
was, perhaps, the second settler. Both he and his 
wife died within two years thereafter. 

The third settler was Abram Chatfield. He came 
in by way of Jackson, Marshall, Bellevue and Ver- 
montville, and passed but one shanty between these 
last named villages. This was unoccupied but 
known as the half-way house. This being in the 
north part of the county, others came in by way of 
Ionia. A land office was now established there and 
there they must go to purchase land. 

Edward 0. Smith came to Sunfield in May, 1838. 
His wife was timid and very greatly frightened 
when one day she saw 260 Pottawattomie Indians 
pass by on their way to reservations beyond the 
Mississippi. Their dress was different from that of 
the Ottawas with which she was now familiar. The 
latter wore white or gray blankets but this passing 
army wore red blankets and leggins furnished by 
the British. 


Daniel Barnum and his four sons, Daniel, Henry, 
Willis and Lewis, and his son-in-law, Avery Pool, 
were early settlers in the east part of the town. 

Thos. Prindle came in the fall of 1840, but said, 
even at that time, "It took all the town to raise a 
shanty ; they couldn 't put up a decent log house for 
their lives." 

James Young moved into Sunfield in 1841. 

Joseph Cupp and several of his friends settled 
here late in 1837. Mrs. Cupp was very much afraid 
of the Indians who, she said, would come to the 
house when she was alone, wanting food, ''would 
give the Indian war whoop and scare a body to 
death." She remembered the tales she had heard 
of early Indian massacres. The Indians here be- 
longed to a band of old Chief Swaba, and were en- 
camped on the shore of the lake that bears his name. 
On one occasion they had obtained liquor and, ac- 
cording to custom, all were drunk including Swaba, 
who was very ill tempered when in liquor. Daniel 
Hagar visited the camp at this unfortunate time. 
Swaba twisted him and choked him in a frenzy of 
delight until he learned who was his victim when he 
was immediately released but considerably bruised. 
After frightening the wife of some pioneer nearly 
out of her senses he would go away and relate his 
exploit in great glee, saying, "white squaw plenty 

The squaws made baskets, moccasins, and rush 
carpets which they would exchange with the settlers 


for provisions. The Indians trapped mucli and 
every spring they went to Shimnicon to plant corn. 

There was no milling nearer than Bellevue, twenty 
miles away, and often the early settlers had naught 
to grind. On one occasion several families had been 
entirely out of provisions for two days and children 
were crying with hunger when James Hager re- 
turned from Plymouth with a load of provisions 
which he had doubtless purchased from a sale of 
furs. He was much given to hunting and trapping. 

May 7, 1842, the board of school inspectors, G. W. 
Andrews, E. E. Peck, and J. R. Wells, organized the 
first school district and Mrs. George Andrews taught 
the first school in her own house. A small log 
shanty was built for the first schoolhouse and was 
used until 1851 when a framed schoolhouse was 

The first preaching in this town by a preacher of 
any denomination was by Rev. W. U. Benedict who 
continued to preach here once in four weeks nearly 
as long as he lived. Not a professor of religion re- 
sided in the township when he began to preach here. 
The Methodists have held meetings there since 
about 1860. 

Records show that the resident taxpayers in 1844 
were as follows: E. 0. Smith, Clesson Smith, S. N. 
Billings, 0. M. Wells, Joseph Cupp, J. D. Wickham, 
S. Hager, W. A. Wells, Abram Chatfield, Thomas 
Prindle, Avery Pool, Willis Barnum, Daniel Bar- 
num, James Young, C. Vanhoutten, S. S. Hoyt, J. R. 


Wells, G. W. Andrews, H. W. Green, Lewis Barnum, 
Sr., and Jr., and John Nead. 

At the first election in 1842, thirteen votes were 
cast and John Nead was elected supervisor. His 
successors have been: George "W. Andrews, John 
Nead, Zenas Hutchinson, David Griffin, Zenas 
Hutchinson, G. W. Andrews and John Dow, from 
1851 to 1878. 

Mr. Dow is the Nestor of supervisors. He was 
first supervisor of Chester before the separation of 
townships. His farm lies on both sides of the road, 
the east township line of Sunfield. His first house 
was in Roxand and he was supervisor of that town- 
ship from 1845 to 1850. He then built his house 
across the road in Sunfield and at once became 
supervisor there as seen above. 

He was a native of Bridgewater, New Jersey, and 
came here in 1837, purchasing his land from the 
government. He was the first in the locality, having 
no neighbors within several miles. 

I chance to know of two pioneers of Eaton County 
who made spectacular entrance into Michigan a few 
years before settling here. The first is that of Linus 
Potter, the father of the late Senator George N. 
Potter and his brothers. He reached Detroit when 
it was but a village in the wilderness; thence he 
walked thirty miles through the forest to establish a 
future home. His wife walked beside him while he 
carried their two little children, one upon his back 
and one in arms. They walked as far as seemed 


prudent into the wood where he left them sitting 
upon a log while he returned to take up the large 
bundle containing all their earthly goods. This he 
carried as far as the family or beyond, then he 
returned for them. Thus he walked the whole thirty 
miles three times over bearing his alternate burdens. 
He later came to Eaton County cutting his road 
through miles of unbroken forest and settling where 
Potterville now is. His story belongs in the history 
of Benton where it is more fully told. 

The other man of unusual experience was Peter 
M. Kent, one of the earliest pioneers of Oneida and 
later a most prominent citizen of Portland and then 
of Grand Ledge. His story belongs to Oneida, but 
that chapter is already prolix while this is brief; 
furthermore his oldest son later became a pioneer of 
Sunfield and here the grandsons were reared. This 
furnishes excuse, if not good reason, for giving his 
story here. Late in life he wrote an extended auto- 
biography, remarkable alike in his unusual adven- 
tures and his marvelous memory in recalling them. 
From this "sketch," as he termed it, I am permitted 
to cull the foUoAving facts. 

He was born in Pennsylvania in 1810, of Dutch 
parentage but very poor. At fifteen years of age he 
went for himself, working for a farmer at $7.00 a 
month for six months, losing but two days and sav- 
ing his earnings. Later he worked for $10.00 a 
month and incidentally picked up the carpenter's 
trade. Then he worked three years at nominal wage 


and learned the millwright's trade. When twenty- 
one years old he had bought twenty-four acres of 
land and upon it had established his parents and 
their small children of whom he was thenceforth the 
main support. 

He next started with a companion of like aspira- 
tions to traverse, on foot, the whole of western New 
York seeking desirable location for future life. The 
details are too prolix for these pages although very 
interesting. He finally bought eighty acres of land 
at $3.00 an acre. Here he settled his parents who 
made some improvements when he sold the land for 
$1,280, or $16.00 an acre. This was a princely sum 
to start pioneer life in Michigan. He met, in New 
York State, James and Almeron Newman, who told 
him they had purchased a mill site at the mouth of 
the Lookinggiass River, and they engaged him to 
construct their mills. They took his trunk and tool- 
chest, to ship with their goods by water, up the lakes 
and then the Grand Eiver, while Kent followed on 
foot. He took boat from Cleveland to Toledo and 
thence on foot again. 

His description of Michigan cities as he found 
them in 1836 is most interesting. He passed 
''through where Hudson now is" and reached 
Adrian "which then consisted of a tavern and one 
store." He then walked to Jonesville, "a little 
huddle", and thence to Coldwater "which was but 
a few houses about a mile from where the beautiful 
city of that name now is." Here he was offered 


two hundred forty acres, as choice looking land as he 
ever saw, for $1,000. He offered $950 but failed to 
get it. It is now within the city corporation. 

From there he walked to Marshall, ' ' one store and 
a tavern." Here he had a supper so wretched that 
the landlord took no pay (after controversy) and 
offered a drink if he would say nothing. 

Here he enquired the way to the mouth of the 
Lookinggiass. (Portland had as yet no name.) 
Some advised that he go to White Pigeon thence 
via. Yankee Springs to Grand Eapids and up the 
river. Others said no, go to Bellevue and take the 
Clinton trail to Grand Eapids. Kent could believe 
neither of them. He knew the Newmans had gone 
through with two yoke of oxen and he did not think 
they had gone such a roundabout way. Another 
told him to return to Jackson and take the old Indian 
trail, fifty miles through the forest to Scotts Tavern 
on the Lookinggiass. This he did and found Jack- 
son, * ' a small tavern, a store and two groceries, ' ' but 
he had much difficulty in learning of any trail 
through the north woods. One man knew of it — had 
been over it and said it ended just behind the tavern. 
He was told to follow it to "Tanner's who would 
tell him all about it." Here he met a young man 
who thought he wanted to go through with him to 
Newman's, to get a steady job of work, to earn forty 
acres of land. It was now forty miles without a 
house or guide post, save the well worn Indian 
trail, deeped by centuries of travel. They followed 


but a few miles when the young man, disheartened, 
turned back. Kent was in no sense a woodsman 
and was too timid to venture alone. He went back 
to Davis and then hired a large powerful man named 
Turner to go through with him for "twenty shill- 
ings." Mrs. Davis sold them bread and a chunk of 
butter for their dinner as by sharp travel they could 
make it in a day. But Turner proved very hea\'7 
of foot. They slept in the woods when little more 
than half through, ie., Turner slept, but mosquitoes 
kept Kent awake until dawn at 3:00 when they 
started on. 

Their instructions were to follow the great trail 
to its end at the Cedar River near where Okemos 
now is and where there was then a deserted Indian 
village. Then follow the river down to a crossing 
and up the further bank to the Indian burying 
ground; then with their compass, steer directly 
north until they intercepted another trail leading to 
the Lookingglass. At the Cedar River, Turner 
balked and nearly fought to return but finally re- 
luctantly followed on very slowly. It was a hot day 
and the only water they found was a pond in which 
they brushed the wigglers away and dipping their 
bread therein, ate it to quench thirst. Toward night, 
as a rain storm approached, they came to the Look- 
ingglass and an Indian ferried them across. 

''He pointed us the way to Scotts which was not 
very far down the river. Here we stayed over 
night with thirty others, land lookers, in his little 


block tavern. Here we found two men freighting 
down the river to Lyons. Five of us engaged 
passage with them to the mouth of the Lookingglass 
at fifty cents each. We constructed a rude raft to 
help support the frail boat. In this crazy contrap- 
tion with much bailing we succeeded in reaching 
very near the mouth at Portland, but here the raft 
parted, the boat upset. The passengers, badly 
scared, shouted murder, but finally, clinging to wil- 
lows by the shore, all lives were saved but the freight 
was lost." Their lusty calls brought the Newmans 
to their rescue. They were housed and dried and 
this perilous journey ended. Thus Peter Kent had 
walked the entire distance from Philadelphia to 
Grand Eapids except the space between Buffalo and 
Detroit. Much of this he walked over several times. 

Quoting Kent: 

*'Here my Michigan labor should begin but my 
tool chest shipped by water had not arrived. No 
work could be done without tools. We waited, then 
heard Newman's goods had been seen on the dock in 
Chicago. We asked a man going there to see that 
they were reshipped to Grand Rapids at once. Work 
must be begun soon or not at all that season. We 
went to Grand Rapids to search for the goods and 
there found my tool chest which we reshipped to 
Lyons. We then returned on foot to Lyons, opened 
the chest and taking broad-axe, square and chalk- 
line walked to Portland and began work on the mill 
July 20, 1836, and it was raised on September 1st." 


Almeron Newman and Kent then went to Detroit 
to select fixtures for a grist mill, of small run of 
stone, to add to the sawmill. Mr. Kent went on to 
York State on business but returned early in October 
to Detroit and at Farmington he met John and 
Greorge Strange and began an acquaintance which 
continued while they lived. They walked together 
from Farmington to Scott's and beyond to S. B. 
Groger's in Eagle. They waded sloughs, twenty 
rods across and waist deep in water covered with a 
thin crust of ice. They became lost in the woods 
and sat upon the roots of trees all night. 

Groger was a professional land looker. He told 
them the best land in Michigan was just south across 
the river in Eaton County. And the next day he 
piloted a party of half a dozen over there, crossing 
at the "old ford" a mile below the ledges. Much 
land had been taken by speculators but he knew of a 
few choice tracts still open. He led them a zigzag 
course, following blazed trees of the government 
survey. He showed them sections 7 and 18, then 
went east to the center line and said if any would 
return that night it was time to start. They divided 
and some returned but my father, my uncle George 
Strange and Kent said they would look further. At 
the quarter post on the west side of section 34, night 
overtook them. Without blankets they could scarce- 
ly lie down in the light snow. They sat upon the 
roots of trees, told stories or walked about to keep 
warm. Speculators had been before them but of 


those who became settlers it is believed these were 
the first who ever set foot in Oneida. There was 
not a habitation nor roadway within ten miles of the 
land they selected. 

The next morning (early in October, 1836) they 
went around section 34 and then determined their 
choice. Uncle George took the northwest quarter of 
section 7 and w^ith my father they bought the south 
one-half of section 18 and the whole of section 34. 
Most of this section is still owned by the third gen- 
erations of Stranges being one of the very few 
tracts still in the family of the first purchaser. 

Mr. Kent chose the one-half of section 27 and 
one-half of 28 thus giving him a square mile. They 
then returned to the 'old ford' reaching there about 
11 A. M., after w^ading a slough waist deep and 
thinly encrusted with ice. Here they found Mr. 
Groger's son w^ho met them with fresh biscuits, and 
in a canoe ferried them over. They started at once 
for the U. S. land office at Ionia to secure their 
land. They learned at Portland that the office was 
closed for a time. They all went to work for New^- 
man until the office opened and soon after returned. 
Mr. Kent worked most of the w^inter on Newman's 
mill and at the same time hired a man to chop fifty 
acres on the northeast corner of his land in Oneida. 
The next summer he went east and brought his 
father's family to Portland but in March, 1838, he 
placed them in a log house built upon this land. 
This he called home but he continued to spend much 


time building mills, one at Stony Creek, ten miles 
below Portland, another at Lloyd's, another in 
Eagle and one at Wacousta. He geared a mill for 
Erastus IngersoU in Delta and then helped Newman 
to build a modern large grist mill and Kent bought 
a half interest in it and ran it twelve years when 
again he removed to his farm in Oneida. In 1852, 
after being on the farm two years he, with his 
brother Francis, and Abram Hixson bought out the 
Grand Ledge milling properties but Peter remained 
upon his farm until 1861 when, having built a large 
house in Grand Ledge, he removed his family there, 
and spent the remainder of a serene old age, a fore- 
most citizen, respected and esteemed by all. 


Following the townships in their order of settle- 
ment we again skip across the county from the 
extreme northwest to extreme northeast corner, 

The settlement of this township presents a more 
romantic history than any other. A greater variety 
of pioneer experiences, perhaps more privations 
and hardships, more wanderings in the wilderness, 
more of loneliness and again more dense crowding 
into scarcely habitable homes. 

Bellevue had one entrance pathway followed by 
all, and this mainly through *'oak openings" where 
a first trail was easily formed. Vermontville, with 
its thrilling experiences, was settled by a colony 
where many mutual friends came closely in together. 
Delta was entered by four different routes, each 
through dense woods and interminable swamps ; the 
first incomer over each cutting a path from ten to 
forty miles which was so obscured before others fol- 
lowed it that it was difficult or impossible to trace, 
and these followers were often lost over night and 
sometimes for several days. 

Thirty-six purchases of government land are re- 
corded in 1836 (doubtless most of them by specu- 
lators who never settled here) and only one pur- 
chase preceding this and that by the first settler, 



Erastus Ingersoll, in 1835. He purchased eight 
hundred acres lying upon both sides of Grand River, 
and this with most lofty expectations and aspira- 
tions. He was the father of six sons, all well known 
afterwards throughout this and adjoining counties. 
The oldest son, Erastus S. Ingersoll, perhaps the 
best known of them all, was elected the first town- 
ship supervisor, was for very many years Sunday 
school superintendent and later State agent or 
superintendent of Sunday schools. He wrote an 
extended account of the early settlement of this 
township from which I make many extracts as 
follows : 

'*In the spring of 1836, Mr. Ingersoll employed 
Anthony Niles and Heman Thomas, residing in 
Eagle, to build a log cabin on his newly purchased 
lands and upon the north side of the river. In the 
month of August or September, of this year, Mr. 
Ingersoll, in company with Clinton Burnet (later of 
Windsor, Eaton County) and a Mr. Avery, went 
onto this land with his family, doubtless the first 
settler in this quarter of the county. They left 
Farmington, Oakland County, following the Grand 
River turnpike to Howell, thence he turned north- 
ward to the Looking-glass River which they fol- 
lowed to the present site of DeWitt. From this 
point he cut his way southwesterly, without other 
guide than his pocket compass, to his log cabin al- 
ready erected, a distance of ten or more miles. The 
labor and trial of such a task is inconceivable at the 


present day. His next task was to dam the Grand 
River and begin the task of building a sawmill. This 
mill was only partially finished when on the last 
day of December, 1836, the first board was sawed 
but the 'gigging back' was only accomplished by 
hand with the aid of handspikes. Addison Hayden 
was head mechanic in building the mill but the 
freshet of the following spring swept away the frail 
dam. ' ' 

The next settlers after Mr. Ingersoll were a Mr. 
Lewis and his son-in-law^, Ezra Billings. They came 
in from the south cutting their road from Eaton 
Rapids, some twenty miles, and enduring such hard- 
ships by the way that Mrs. Lewis died soon after 
their arrival. This was before the sa"WTnill had 
cut its first board and according to pioneer custom 
the wagon-box in which she had arrived, was cut up 
to make a coffin in which she was buried. Thus an- 
other succumbed to the hardships unendurable save 
by the strongest. 

Erastus S. Ingersoll, the writer of these notes, 
was the next to arrive February 27, 1837. He came 
with his family from Farmington via. Shiawassee 
and DeWitt with sleigh and horses. ' ' Supplies were 
transported by ox-team from Detroit. Provisions 
ruled very high, pork being $40 and flour $14 a bar- 
rel. We were without vegetables until the follow- 
ing spring. A Mr. Butterfield came down the river 
in the early spring with a boat laden with much 
needed potatoes. My father purchased both the 


cargo and the vessel, paying $40 for the boat and 
$2 a bushel for potatoes, seventy bushels in all. 

''About the first of June, 1837, my father returned 
with his brother, the Rev. E. P. Ingersoll and Dr. 
Jennings of Oberlin and others from Ohio and Mass- 
achusetts. They came through from Howell bring- 
ing with them two yoke of oxen and four cows. 
They cut their own roads through the dense forest 
this entire forty miles, built bridges, dug down 
hillsides, removed obstructions and encountered 
many trying delays. On Saturday night they en- 
camped on the banks of Cedar River and observed 
the Sabbath as a day of rest and religious worship. 
On our arrival Mr. Ingersoll's family was increased 
to eighteen members. 

''Two weeks later Thomas Chadwick arrived ac- 
companied by other Ingersolls with two yoke of oxen 
and a span of horses, having followed the new trail 
from Howell. Imagine the difficulties of construct- 
ing this road when you read the details of this next 
trip over it. On the first day they came to an open 
marsh and testing the strength of its turf thought 
it sufficient to venture upon with the horse team. 
l¥hen half way over the horses broke through and 
mired. When released from the wagon they man- 
aged to get across. After selecting a new path the 
oxen were tried with the same result. Both wagons 
were now stranded or mired to their axles in the 
mud. Mrs. Chadwick, a very stout old lady, was 
left alone in one wag-on and now shouting for assist- 


ance. Her stalwart son managed after a time to 
carry her safe to land upon liis back. They next 
cut several long poles and connected them with 
ropes and chains and attached them to a wagon 
tongTie. The teams now having firm footing brought 
the wagons, one at a time, safely to the shore, after 
they had lightened the wagons by carrying upon 
their backs much of the loads. The next day one of 
their horses gave out and much of the lading was 
left in the forest. We then sent one of our number 
on ahead to return with provisions. He brought 
back pork and beans. With fresh heart we went 
forward and reached Delta Mills the third day from 
Howell. Wondrous was the capacity of a small log 
house in those pioneer days. This one now shel- 
tered twenty-six persons besides occasional land 
lookers who perforce halted here. 

"About the 20th of March Mr. Compton and Mr. 
Cronkite, future settlers in Eagle, arrived with 
their families having made the trip from Eaton Rap- 
ids upon the ice. The ice was now melting rapidly 
and was free from our shore. They shouted lustily 
for assistance and called us from our supper table. 
We managed with poles to construct a bridge to the 
ice and they were landed safely. 

''A few days later than this, in April, we heard a 
loud call early in the morning from the south side 
of the river. A boat was sent across and soon re- 
turned with four young men who had been out all 
night without food, fuel, fire or covering, through- 


out a violent storm and depth of snow. So thor- 
oughly drenched were they that water was freely 
wrung from their every garment. 

''These calls were frequent but each awakened 
new and deeper interest. A few mornings later a 
loud halloo was heard at our very door. Rushing 
out and surrounding a lad on horse back too closely, 
as he thought, he drew a pistol and shouted, 'Stand 
back! I am in Uncle Sam's employ.' And so it 
proved. A tiny mail bag was strapped to the rear 
of his saddle. We learned from him that a mail 
route was established from Jacksonburg (afterward 
the city of Jackson) to Ionia. Roads proving im- 
passable the route was soon discontinued. ' ' 

Another party coming in from Eaton Rapids 
were lost in the "Old Maid's Swamp" for several 
days under really terrifying conditions. 

Some of the founders of Delta were as religiously 
zealous and as intellectually asjDiring as the found- 
ers of Vermontville but less successful in their enter- 
prise. Erastus Ingersoll bought this large tract of 
land and his brother, Rev. E. P. Ingersoll, came on 
with the purpose of founding here a college planned 
after the model of Oberlin. In fact the Rev. J. J. 
Shipherd, the founder of Oberlin and who after- 
ward founded Olivet, came with these two brothers 
in 1835, and assisted in selecting the land. The two 
reverends returned to New England to obtain sub- 
scriptions with very gratifying results — so much 
so that preparations were made and foundation 


laid for a large college building. The famed panic 
of 1837- '38 brought disaster to this with many an- 
other laudable enterprise. Subscriptions could not 
be collected. The college was blighted and their 
hopes nearly blasted but Rev. E. P. Ingersoll did 
return here and taught an advanced school for a 
time but, despairing of success, ''abandoned the 
Avoods of Delta for some more congenial field." 

Mr. E. S. Ingersoll closes his long essay with 
' ' fourteen points ' ' : 

The first settler, Erastus Ingersoll. The first 
dwelling, his log cabin. 

The first improvements, his dam and sawmill. 

The first hotel, by E. S. Ingersoll. 

The first postmaster, E. S. Ingersoll. 

The first election, in fall of 1838. 

The first minister of the gospel, Rev. E. P. Inger- 

The first child born (a girl), 1838. 

The first church organized in 1851. The first per- 
manent pastor, Rev. Wm. P. Esler. 

The first schoolhouse, built in 1839. The first 
schoolteacher, Lydia Ingersoll. 

The first public school teacher, Miss Sally Chad- 

During the summer of 1837, a grist mill, a framed 
barn, and two framed houses were built, the latter 
belonging to E. S. Ingersoll and to A. Hayden. 

The first marriage occurred in 1838, Addison Hay- 
den and Mary Chadwick. An interesting incident 


is connected with this marriage. A justice of the 
peace was sent for to perform the ceremony. His 
wife said he could not go as he had no fit clothes. 
His sons came to his relief. One furnished a coat, 
another a vest, still another the pants, but the fin- 
ishing touch was given when another, the family 
dude, furnished a plug hat. This was not the last 
nor greatest of their perplexities. It chanced that 
the justice was not a praying man and here was an 
indispensible part of the ceremony unprovided for. 
Mr. E. S. Ingersoll was engaged to supply this part 
of the ceremony so the matrimonial knot was duly 
tied and ' ' they lived happily ever after. ' ' 

On June 11, 1841, a village plat was laid out ex- 
tending from the river to the turnpike. This was 
given the aspiring name of Grand River City but 
the name failed of general adoption. It remained 
"Delta Mills" for many years. In a very early 
day Whitney Jones established a store here after 
purchasing a considerable portion of the "plat." 
Since he became supervisor here and a prominent 
man in the county and later well known throughout 
the State it is perhaps well to pause here and recite 
something of his varied early career. In the sum- 
mer of 1839, he came to Detroit from New York 
State with a stock of goods which he took in trade 
at Jamestown. In August, 1839, he took his stock 
of goods to Marshall, but in March, 1842, he trans- 
ported his stock to Eaton Rapids. Here he built 
two boats measuring twelve by sixteen feet and 


floated his goods to Delta Mills where he opened 
the first store. His second stock was boated all the 
way from Jackson. He remained here until 1845, 
when he removed to Detroit but after the capital 
was located in Lansing, 1847, he came to that place 
where he remained. 

The first settler on the south side of the river 
was Genet Brown who came via Jacksonburg (now 
Jackson) and Eaton Rapids, stopping in Windsor at 
the shanties of Mr. Towslee and John D. Skinner. 
Rev. E. P. Ingersoll was an old acquaintance of Mr. 
Brown and at his house he made headquarters while 
exploring and building a shanty. Brown had al- 
ways worked in a factory and had little knowledge 
of farming or of forests. He had many amusing 
and trying experiences. He finally found the ''half 
burned log heap" left by the surveyors ten years 
before at the exact center of the township and a 
half mile beyond his ow^n land. Here he laid the 
foundation of a ten by fourteen cabin. Then with 
the aid of six men who came from the ' ' Mills ' ' with 
a yoke of oxen, a sled, and five slabs, the cabin was 
raised and covered with basswood troughs and the 
slabs, and so made habitable ; but what a change for 
Brown, from a city to the loneliness of this vast wild- 
erness with only wild men and wild animals to 
break the monotony of unaccustomed toil. 

On the day of the raising the highway commis- 
sioner laid the first roadway in the township from 
the Mills to Brown's shanty. Here after a time he 


was joined by John Reed who came through from 
Eaton Rapids with an ox team and many trying ex- 
periences. By way of a private sleeping room, a 
box was emptied and placed in the cabin for his per- 
sonal use. Brown had many experiences in his wild- 
wood home but not nearly so frightful as he imag- 
ined. Chased home by a hungry pack of wolves, he 
gave his wife a terrible fright by falling full length 
upon the floor. Upon examining the tracks the next 
morning he felt assured that ''forty such Bro^vns 
as I could not have made a meal for such an awful 
pack. ' ' 

Thomas Parsons was an early settler in the south- 
east corner of the township. He had a son, not of 
the brightest. When gathering sap with two buckets 
he became lost and it was said he traveled forty 
miles carrying those buckets slung to a yoke upon 
his shoulders and searching for his home. 

Allowing for reasonable exaggeration the pion- 
eers of Delta certainly left some interesting stories. 

Delta had been a part of Oneida until February 
16, 1842, when by act of legislature it was created 
into a separate township and ' ' the first election shall 
be at the schoolhouse near Ingersoll's mill." The 
election resulted as follows: For Supervisor, E. S. 
Ingersoll; Clerk, Alexander Ingersoll; Treasurer, 
0. B. Ingersoll ; Justices, S. Wm. Lee, Samuel Nixon, 
Remember Baker. 

Supervisors later were: Whitney Jones, S. B. 


Dayton, A. Hayden, J. T. Dorrel, Chas. Burr, 
Chamicey Goodrich, Charles Bull. 

Among early experiences one man relates that his 
wife went at one time nineteen days without seeing 
a human being except two squaws. Again at one 
time he broke his axe and to obtain another he had 
to walk twenty miles and for it he paid three pairs 
of socks which his wife had knitted in the winter 

The following is the list of resident taxpayers 
in 1844: A. Baker, R. Baker, Thos. Robbins, Wm. 
Lee, E. S. Ingersoll, Alex. Ingersoll, D. S. Ingersoll, 
S. B. Dayton, Whitney Jones, P. Phillips, D. Phil- 
lips, Emerson Frost, W. J. Halsey, John Reed, 0. 
Fairbanks, D. R. Carpenter, Thomas Parsons, Ed. 
Moore, John Nixon, Samuel Nixon, N. Carrier, A. 
H. Hayden, Daniel Chadwick, Ansel Mascho, Seers 
Mascho, Charles Mascho. 

I am told that Rev. W. H. Carpenter was the first 
male child born in Delta. 

"When riding past the broad acres, the fertile 
fields, the immense barns, the elegant homes of to- 
day it is difficult to ijnagine the privations of the 
pioneers upon these same acres eighty years ago. 


Eaton County with two others was at a very early 
day included in the Township of Greene. Later 
the whole of Eaton County was included in the 
Township of Bellevue. Next the southeast quarter 
of the county was organized into the Township of 
Eaton but by act of legislature approved February 
16, 1842, the present Township of Eaton Rapids 
was organized and ''the first township meeting shall 
be held at the house of H. Hamlin. ' ' 

The government records show seven purchases 
of land within this township in 1835, and forty-six 
in 1836. Few of these however became actual set- 
tlers here. Johnson Montgomery is credited with 
settling here in September, 1836, as he came at that 
time and began improvements upon his land which 
continued unremittingly, but for several months he 
made his home with his brother John (the first 
settler in Hamlin) who lived just across the road 
from his land; thus he was not legally a resident 
i^pon his land. 

The first actual resident within the limits of the 
present township w^as John E. Clark, locating upon 
section 20 on February 11, 1837. From a brief 
autobiography of Johnson Montgomery, now in my 
possession, I learn that he was of Scotch-Irish 
descent and that his parents came to this country 
the year before he was born, 1806, and when his 



brother John was but one year old. He lived with 
his parents at different places in New York until 
twenty-one years old, married when twenty-three, 
and before 1836, when they started for Michigan, 
three children were born to them. Quoting directly 
from his own writing: 

*'We started with two yoke of oxen bringing 
our family and all our household goods in one 
wagon. At Buffalo we went on board of steamer to 
Detroit. But after leaving that place it was almost 
impossible to proceed through the interminable mud. 
In about five days we arrived at Dexter having en- 
countered many difficulties. Here we were joined 
by my brother Robert. After leaving Dexter we 
found it very difficult to proceed, fording streams 
and wading mire-holes. While fording Portage 
River the wagon became fastened in the mire. 
Brother Robert went two miles to get a team to help 
draw the wagon out of the mire. While he was 
gone I waded to my waist in mud and water and 
carried my wife and children and some of our goods 
to dry land. When the team arrived we fastened 
one end of a long pole to the wagon tongue and 
hauled it out of the mire. As we proceeded west we 
found it still more difficult to proceed. We found 
it would be necessary to camp out one night. We 
accordingly procured a sufficient quantity of pro- 
visions for such an event but with no shelter save 
the canopy of heaven. 

''We were obliged to turn the cattle loose at night 

Eatcon rapids township. ©3 

to feed, and great was our disappointment in the 
morning to find our oxen were missing. Following 
their tracks I immediately started to find tliem, 
which I did after traveling as fast as possible four- 
teen miles. Two hours before sunset I returned 
with them to the wagon. Brother John had heard 
we were coming, and not far away, and during my 
search for the cattle he had been to the camping 
place and had very kindly taken my family and a 
portion of my goods and carried them to his house. 
I arrived there about eleven o 'clock the same night. 
We soon moved into a shanty just vacated by a Mr. 
Toles where we were obliged to hang up blankets 
instead of doors and in place of window glass we 
used greased paper to let in a little light. 

''We remained here until nearly spring time, 1837, 
before any boards could be procured to add to our 
comfort. We felt this to be quite a severe introduc- 
tion to pioneer life, still we were not disheartened. 
As soon as we moved into the shanty I was obliged 
to return to Dexter to purchase provisions which 
were difficult to obtain at any price. Pork was $44 
a barrel and flour $14. Contrast this with the prices 
two years later when we had produce to sell. Wheat 
was 44 cents a bushel but no cash, corn twelve and 
one-half cents and pork one and one-half cents a 
pound. (These prices were partly due to scarcity 
and then abundance but largely to the fact that very 
cheap money was abundant in 1836, but after the 


panic of 1837 and '38 money was practically un- 
known. ) 

"We could generally tell how long a man had 
been in the State. The second year he was obliged 
to wear his best coat every day; the third year he 
had to cut off the coat tails to mend the sleeves. A 
few of us built a shanty and supported a school but 
it was four or five years before a district was or- 
ganized and a schoolhouse built." 

Mr. Montgomery's first wife died in June, 1863, 
having borne him nine children, some of them since 
highly honored by the State and the Nation. He 
married a second wife, Mrs. Nancy Kingman, in 
May, 1867. He died sixteen years later when sev- 
enty-seven years old. 

John E. Clark, who was really the first settler, 
(or the second as you may choose to count it), set- 
tled in the west part of the town and found no road 
near his land and no neighbor nearer than the Wall 
settlement in Eaton. He relates that wild game was 
very abundant and even bears a nuisance. Once 
hearing a hog squeal he followed the sound and 
found a large bear worrying the hog. As Clark ap- 
proached the bear dropped the hog and turned upon 
him. He retreated into a small tree and kicked the 
bear's nose, then called to his hired man who came 
and shot and wounded the bear. A few days later he 
again heard a hog squeal. He took his gun, pursued 
and shot and killed the bear. It proved to be the 
same, large, old gray bear with a kicked nose. 


Simon Darling and his wife and three children 
settled upon his land, section 12, near the northeast 
corner of the township in November, 1837. He 
wrote as follows : 

"I had a good yoke of oxen and the first that 
ever were driven over what was called the Lansing 
road. The second and third days of our journey it 
rained constantly and we were saturated. Streams 
were greatly swollen. At Leslie a man told me the 
best place to ford Whitney Creek. We prepared for 
emergency. My wife climbed to the top of a chest 
which was quite high and put the children in a wash- 
tub on the extreme top of the load. The oxen swam 
and I waded to the further shore and then pushed 
onward. The next night but one we reached John 
Montgomery's home, the seventh after leaving 
Dexter. The next day we started down the river 
and reached our land on Section 12 where our life of 
toil, of sunshine and shadow commenced in good 
earnest. My wife was in this woods six months be- 
fore she saw a white woman. The Indians were set- 
tled all around us but were quiet and sociable. The 
wolves regaled us with their musical talent which 
was extremely wonderful at times. By the way we 
went, it was seven miles around to mill at Eaton 
Rapids. About 4:00 o'clock A. M. I started and 
would usually reach home by dark. In 1841 my wife 
went east for three months taking two youngest 
children and leaving two with me. I had my hands 


''One niglit I was awakened by Indians making a 
terrible fuss. I dressed hastily and went out to 
learn the cause. An Indian told me the soldiers 
were after them to take them away off. General 
Cass had made a treaty with the Indians who were 
to remove beyond the Mississippi. When the time 
came they refused to budge. Some ran away, some 
went peaceably, others fought. 

''In 1841, we put up a schoolhouse strictly in 
keeping with our humble ways. It was built of logs 
with a roof of troughs. A favorite pastime of the 
children was chasing woodchucks from the excava- 
tion of these same logs. We hired a teacher. Miss 
Cornell, and paid her the munificent salary of one 
dollar a week. Bears were quite plenty and w^e used 
to tell the children to make a noise while going, to 
frighten the bears away. It is needless to say the 
injunction was never disregarded. Bears were 
abundant. At one time going to the river with my 
little boys we espied five of them quietly feeding 
upon acorns. A neighbor named Grovenburg trap- 
ped many of them with an immense trap weighing 
eighty pounds. He was skilful setting this and 
skilful in tracking a bear where he had dragged it 
away as they sometimes dragged it many miles. I 
once ran suddenly upon an immense bear. He 
reared to meet me. I struck his nose with a heavy 
club and yelled terrifically. We both ran in opposite 

"Our life was not all hardship. We were a social 


people and clung to each other in privation or 
plenty. At the first I had no potatoes. Branch 
and myself being at John Montgomery's he said we 
might each have two bushels of potatoes if we could 
carry them home. We eagerly accepted and carried 
them a distance of six miles. They didn't seem 
heavy, we were so glad to get them. 

* ' Fabrics for clothing were sold at extremely high 
prices. Men would buy buckskin of the Indians and 
make them into breeches. They were very durable 
but in some respects peculiar. A neighbor had a 
pair but when soaked they stretched so as to impede 
his progress. He cut them off. In the evening, sit- 
ting before the fireplace they shrunk beyond ac- 
count. His good wife made him take a pilgrimage to 
the woods while she spliced them to a more respect- 
able length. 

''In 1849, we moved into our new framed house. 
As we look back over our early life in the wilderness 
we can perhaps claim as much sunshine as shadow 
in the past." 

B. F. Mills from Hartland, Vermont, settled in 
Eaton Eapids August 12, 1837, when the village 
contained but three shanties. 

Willis Bush settled here in 1836, and Philip Gil- 
man in 1838. 

Henry A. Shaw, a native of Vermont, had taught 
school and began the practice of law in Ohio. Be- 
cause of failing health he was advised to get out of 
doors and to go west. In the fall of 1842 he came to 


Eaton County with 850 sheep. These he sold in 
vicinity of Eaton Rapids, Charlotte and Vermont- 
ville. Previous to this there had not been 200 sheep 
in Eaton and Barry Counties. He purchased lands 
in Eaton Rapids and ever after looked upon this as 
his home. Mr. Shaw was ever prominent in the 
county and in 1855 he was sent to the legislature 
where he at once took a prominent position. He 
introduced and carried through many important 
measures. In fact very few men have been more 
useful in that body. He was again elected in 1857 
and was then made speaker of the house. In 1865, 
he was again elected. He also held many other 
offices of trust and responsibility. He served with 
distinction in the Civil War. He was always very 
proud of the young lawyers he trained in his office 
including 0. M. Barnes, I. M. Crane, M. V. Mont- 
gomery, 0. F. Rice, and Anson Bronson. 

The fertile soil of the plains and of the timbered 
land together with the improved waterpower aided 
in the rapid development of this town. In 1844, 
there were eighty-nine resident taxpayers in the 

It seems the early records of election have been 
lost or destroyed but since 1850 there have been 
elected supervisors: James Gallery, W. W. Crane, 
R. H. King, Rufus Hale, N. J. Seelye, D. B. Hale 
and others. Some of these have been several times 
elected. James Gallery was supervisor at intervals 
for more than thirty years. 


In 1875, nearly half a century ago, James Gallery 
wrote an extended narrative, historical and auto- 
biographical, from which I make free extracts as 
follows : 

''In 1836, my father and I, in New York State, 
accepted Horace Greely's advice and moved west. 
We first landed at Detroit, returned to Toledo and 
thence to Adrian. For public land and a permanent 
home we were advised to seek the Grand River 
country. Arriving at Jacksonburg, as Jackson was 
then called, we there arranged with a professional 
land looker to secure for us a quarter section of 
most desirable land, heavily timbered. Late the 
next spring we received a duplicate for the land said 
to be about two miles from Spicer's Mill. Father 
and I started at once and, on the 17th of August, 
1837, arrived at this place, now called Eaton Rapids. 
The first blow had been struck that summer by 
Spicer, Hamlin and Darling who had, the year be- 
fore, built a sawmill at Spicerville. 

' ' There were then but three buildings in the place. 
The dam across Spring Brook was partially built. 
The frame for the grist mill was up. There was not 
a bridge across any stream here. The three fam- 
ilies here at that time were of Amos Spicer, Ben- 
jamin Knight and C. C. Darling. Samuel Hamlin 
at that time lived at Spicerville. 

''We saw our land one and one-half miles from 
here, were well pleased and returned home. We 
returned about November 1st and went into the 


house of Lawrence Howard while we rolled up the 
logs for a house of our own, twelve by twenty-four 
feet and drew boards from Spicerville for doors and 
floor. I built the door, also a chimney of stone, 
sticks and clay, not artistic but our own, and filled 
with average enjoyment. About this time Amos 
Hamlin built here a slab blacksmith shop. John 
Montgomery had raised one crop of wheat and from 
him we purchased twenty-five bushels at $1.25. 
There was no grist mill nearer than Jackson but in 
January, 1838, our mill was started. February 
seemed the coldest month I had ever known but 
March warmed up beautifully and on its last day I 
planted potatoes. 

''During that summer the first store was built by 
Benjamin Knight. The following winter I ran the 
grist mill and boarded with Mr. Knight. About 
this time the township was organized and a post- 
office established. 

"In 1840 I chopped, logged, split rails and all 
kinds of pioneer labor but found it not to my taste. 
I practiced milling for several years. 

''In the summer of 1842, our village took its first 
important stride toward greatness. A dam was 
built across Grand Eiver and a race dug to com- 
bine the water power of the two streams. The mill 
was enlarged and improved. Two churches were 
built although not completed until long after. This 
year too I think Hamlin's Hotel was enlarged. We 
soon had two or three asheries which did a large 


business in black salts, pot and pearl ashes and 
saleratus. This was a very important industry for 
the farmers who were clearing land and had ashes 
to sell. In 1844 a carding mill was erected and in 
the summer of 1846 a foundry, 

' ' In the spring of 1847, my health failing, I looked 
for a more healthful occupation and thinking a 
foundry would suit me I at once bought out Mr, 
Spencer and soon after I took charge of the busi- 
ness but without any experience in the business. 
Signed, James Gallery," 

The postoffice was established at Eaton Rapids 
about 1837-38, with Benjamin Knight as postmaster. 
The original plat of the village was laid out July 
19, 1838, by Amos Spicer, P, E, Spicer, C, Darling 
and Samuel Hamlin, In 1839, the place was still 
very small. The frame of the old ''Eaton Rapids 
Hotel" was built that season. The "Morgan 
House" was built in 1841-42 by Horace Hamlin. In 
1849, by actual count the entire number of shingle 
roof buildings in the village was thirty-six. 

Oct, 14, 1859, the board of supervisors of Eaton 
County incorporated the village as they were at 
that time authorized to do, but by act of the legisla- 
ture April 15, 1871, it was enlarged and reincorpor- 
ated. In 1861 James Gallery was President and 
J, Phillips, Clerk, 

November 4, 1841, Henry Frink was hired to 
teach the school four months at $23 a month, April 
13, 1842, it was voted to have school five and one- 


half months by a female teacher. Harriet Dixon 
taught fifteen weeks at $1.50 a week. November 21, 
1842, Bird Norton was hired to teach four months 
at $15 a month. May 8, 1843, Eliza Goodspeed was 
hired to teach five months at eleven shillings a week. 
Other teachers followed as: A. N. DeWitt, L. S. 
Noyes, Roxana Skinner, E. D. Noyes, S. P. Town, 
Cynthia Taylor, and Daniel Palmer. In 1850, the 
number of pupils had so increased that it was neces- 
sary to occupy the Methodist and Congregational 

September 26, 1853, it was voted to raise $2,500 
to build a new school house. In 1870, it was voted 
to raise $25,000 for the same purpose. 

From a history written forty-two years ago I 
copy an item which was thought to be of much con- 
sequence at one time in the history of Eaton Eapids. 
'' Within a period of ten years Eaton Rapids has 
become famous on account of her mineral wells and 
the wonderful cures which their waters have 
wrought, and to judge by the testimonials volun- 
teered, some of them were indeed wonderful. ' ' 


A man named Bell had by some means crept into 
the territory of this township and built a shanty 
near its center. This he had deserted and gone to 
Vermontville in September, 1836, when Harvey and 
Orton Williams following blazed trees of the Gov- 
ernment survey, found their way from Bellevue via. 
Kalamo, secured lands on sections 21 and 22, occu- 
pied this shanty while they built a cabin upon their 
land. They did not return to occupy this until June 
of the following year. While in this shanty Robert 
M. Wheaton stopped with them while looking land. 

Mr. Wheaton became the first settler in Chester 
as he came with his wife and accompanied by Asa 
Fuller and his wife and settled upon his land Octo- 
ber 20th, 1836. Willard Davis of Vermontville (or 
at that time from Bellevue) assisted them in cutting 
a road all the way from Bellevue, twenty miles. This 
would seem, today, an impossible task but it was 
only repeating what pioneers throughout Michigan 
were doing at that time. Mr. Wheaton was the first 
elected supervisor of Chester. He was also the first 
sheriff of Eaton County and held many offices of 

The Williams brothers returned the next June ac- 
companied by their mother and two other brothers, 



John and Isaac. Tliey became a prominent family 
and each of the brothers held public office. 

Jared Bouton accompanied by his two brothers, 
Israel and Aaron, moved into this township in Feb- 
ruary, 1837. They reached the Bell shanty but for 
several weeks they were not able to cross the swollen 
Thornapple Elver and it was not until April that 
they went onto their farm. 

In March, 1837, Benjamin E. Rich with his wife 
and three children, a wagon, a yoke of oxen, five 
sheep and a few hogs came from Adrian via. Jack- 
son and the Clinton trail to the place he occupied 
for many years on section 15. He had traded in 
Adrian for this land and had never seen it. "When 
he arrived he was $400 in debt and had but a two 
dollar bill of an Adrian bank. He sent this to Belle- 
vue to pay for recording his deed to find it was 
good for nothing. Robert Wheaton happened to be 
at Bellevue at the time and he told the register to 
record the deed and if Mr. Rich did not pay for it 
he would. The deed was recorded and, a month 
later, the bank at Adrian having straightened its 
affairs the same bill was again sent and this time it 
was accepted. 

Amasa L. Jordan settled in Chester about 1840 
and his locality became known as Jordan's Corners. 

Henry Cook settled on the east line of Chester 
October 1st, 1837. 

Asa W. Mitchell settled in Chester July 20, 1842. 
His wife, Lydia, in writing her biography for the 


pioneer society, relates this incident: ''In 1842 we 
started with an ox team to go forty-five miles to 
quarterly meeting. Our little girl was taken sick 
that day and we thought she must die; but fortu- 
nately for us, we got lost in the woods and, in our 
wanderings, found some blackberries which she ate. 
These checked the disease and she recovered." 

Eoswell R. Maxson stopped in Jackson County 
in 1837, and the same year he purchased land in 
Chester, intending to settle at once; his family 
taken sick could not be moved. He lived alone in 
the woods for three months. He forded Grand River 
nine times coming from Jackson to this place. He 
later moved his family into Chester. A small log 
shanty was erected which had neither doors, win- 
dows nor chimney and was roofed with troughs. To 
get in, it was necessary to step over a log two feet 
in diameter. The family lived in this through the 
winter which was a severe one. Some years later 
Mr. Maxson built one of the largest frame houses 
in the county. When he moved in but one family 
was living in this part of Chester, Leonard Boyer, 
who settled there about 1837. 

The township was organized by act of the legis- 
lature approved March 21, 1839. It included what 
is now both Chester and Roxand. The jury chosen 
from this double township in May, 1839, was as fol- 
lows: Henry Clark, Orrin Rowland, Henry A. 
Moyer, John Dow, L. H. Boyer, Lemuele Cole, Wm. 
Tunison, Harvey Williams, Jared Bouton, Aaron 


Bouton, Asa Fuller, Zeb. Wlieaton, Benjamin E. 

At tlie first election, April 11, 1839, tliirty-two 
votes were cast. E. M. Wheaton was elected super- 
visor, and Harvey Williams, clerk. Mr. AVlieaton 
at that time not being eligible a special election was 
held in May and John Dow was elected. Mr. Whea- 
ton succeeded him in 1843, followed by E. E. Max- 
son, Hiram Hutchins and Martin. These seemed 
to alternate and each was several times subse- 
quently elected. 

In the fall of 1839, a school district was formed 
in the center of the township and a framed school- 
house was erected. This was the first district or- 
ganized and the first schoolhouse built but it was 
numbered two and the one next east although or- 
ganized a little later was numbered one. 

This township had less of swamp than some of 
the others and the music of wolves was not so com- 
mon. Bears too were perhaps not so common as 
elsewhere but doubtless the pioneers had much of 
the same experiences as others but were less ye- 
hement in relating and recording them. This histor- 
ian saith not. 

Among the early settlers in Chester was Martin 
Beekman who settled in the extreme northwest 
corner in 1837, but because of his remoteness he 
should not be overlooked. His sons, William, Cal- 
vin and Benjamin, later did him much honor. 

The list of resident taxpayers in 1844 includes 


thirty-nine names so the settlement was well started 
and this has ever since been a very prosperous agri- 
cultural township. 

This chapter is brief and little apology is needed 
for appending here the "Pioneer's Golden Wed- 
ding" in Oneida — close neighbors in those days. Be- 
fore there was a habitation in Oneida the nearest 
woods path approaching it terminated at Wheaton's, 
Fuller's and Boughton's in Chester. Uncle Samuel 
Preston, opening a first path into Oneida left his 
family (including his seven year old daughter 
Sarah) with these neighbors while these men as- 
sisted him in cutting a path eight miles to his land 
and putting up a frail shanty into which he moved 
his family on March 4, 1837, the day Van Buren 
was inaugurated President, Nichols family came 
from Canada to Oneida almost immediately after- 
ward. Among the early weddings Aaron Boughton 
married Maria Nichols and ten years from this 
earliest settlement George Nichols married Sarah 
Preston, thus organizing a family afterward well 
known throughout Eaton County. At their Golden 
Wedding, February, 1897, I said to them : 


Here, in the forest primeval, mid endless 

Profusion of ibeech and of maple, 
Through valleys and dales of elm and swamps 

Of tamarack forbidding and solemn, 
O'er hills sparsely topt by the oak and the hazel, 

Through marshes and streams and morasses 
Entangled with wild grass and tag-alder, with hearts 


As strong as the heart of the oak 
Came an earnest band of New England farmers. 

Three full score of years have now passed 
And the few that remain are assem'bled again; 

And we of their friends who stand with them 
Are here to recall a happy event 

That gladdened their homes in the forest. 
Not the first happy event that occurred, 

For glad events oft were occurring. 
Hardships, 'tis true, formed their regular order 

Of living, their work and their rest, 
So to speak, and their diet. But pleasui'es there were, 

And sweetest of these was their courting. 
This always was well done before, out oft 

Was repeated again after marriage; 
For the happiest life, the poet has said, 

That to mortal on earth can be given 
Is always to court, yes, after you're wed, 

Thus life here is a foretaste of heaven. 

What sacrifice more sublime has been made, 

Told or sung, what deeds more heroic. 
Than the life of the Ibride who left all beside 

And, clinging like vine to an oak. 
Accompanied her husband through forests as wild 

As the beasts in their lair, or the red men. 
And with no neighbors save these gave her life 

And her love to the man who in turn 
Would give all of his love and his life and his labor 

To shield her and provide for her children? 

Your fortune it was to be reared in a pioneer home 

Such as I have described. 
The comforts were few and labors were hard 

Your father's keen love and devotion 
And your mother's affection and untiring care 

E'er governed and guarded your life, 
Directed your steps and led you in holy 

Communion with Nature's rude charms. 
The roar or the wail of the wind in the wood 

iSeemed murmuring prayer and song; 
The loud pealing thunder was God's voice 

pioneer's golden wedding. 99 

Responding or shouting, Amen. 
The dark rolling clouds, now touching the trees, 

Were Gideon's fleeces, you knew. 
And the 'bright setting sun, dispersing their gloom, 

Formed your beauteous pictures and true. 
They were mountains of gold or chariots of God, 

Or the highways or by-ways of angels. 
Though your home was a hut you had no need for vain art 

For the high art of God was about you; 
And His beauteous bow bespanning the heavens, 

Descending on forest boughs 
Almost to your feet with promise replete, 

God's promise repeated anew; 
For with pencil of light, dipped in pure waters bright, 

He had painted that promise for you. 
So the birds with their song and the beasts with their bleat. 

And the echoing sounds of the forest, 
Made it seem a vast church and these were the choir, 

All singing while mankind should enter; 
And the wild forest flowers with their perfume so sweet 

iSeemed sweetly bedecking the altar; 
The stars were the lights in the dome of God's church 

Or the eyes of His angels upon you. 

And you were a child. But God touched your heart 

And planted pure seed of affection; 
And when it had grown and its blossoms were shown 

Behold, 'twas the love of a woman — 
The fairest of flowers that ever may bloom, 

The pure, spotless love of a woman. 
And a hero there came as heroes will come. 

With his heart all aflame, and he worshipped 
That ibeautiful flower. So he stole your whole heart 

And transplanted that love to his own. 
You recked not of the theft but followed the love 

And joined your whole heart with his 
In beautiful love and feminine trust. 

That the affection might grow as God willed; 
For, though planted by God and nurtured by man, 

The purest affection may wither 
Unless woman be there and by her constant care 

She guards it in inclement weather. 


So here, in the forest primeval, just fifty 

Full years agone at this hour, 
The priest proclaimed to the world what God 

Had already done, that your two hearts 
Were but one, and thenceforth your two lives became one 

Flowing on in earnest devotion. 
As two crystal streams unite in one broadening brook 

And ever flow on to the ocean. 

Then came the mystery of heaven to earth- 
Three of you soon and the three were one; 

Like showers of manna God's gifts came down 
And crowded your humble home. 

The dearest and sweetest of blessings that God 
E'er has given to mortal below 

Are ripest affection of wife of his youth 
And glad love of children she bore him. 

These you have reared in patient and Christian 
Devotion. The long days of toil 

And the dark sleepless nights receive their reward 
In true children's filial affection. 

Then thrice blessed are you for not only numerous 
Children but children's children's 

Children, to the fourth generation, arise up 
And call your memory blessed. 

Yes, golden indeed, and golden of goldens 

And rarest of weddings is this one; 
Not only four generations unite with your friends 

In wishing blessings upon you, but rarest 
Of facts, your mother and aunt v/ho have watched 

Through all of your life with affection 
Are with you anon. So five generations 

Wish you happy returns that may follow. 

Yes, Sarah and George, great grandparents you may be 

But children you are, her affection to rest on, 
You're children, I say, good children today. 

To great, great grandmother Preston. 
So we bring you these tokens of kindest regard 

And place them here plainly before you. 
Hoping the future may bring you still richer reward. 

With smiles of heaven still beaming o'er you. 


The first purchases of land in Kalamo Township 
were in 1835. The government ''tract book" re- 
cords fourteen purchases that year and fifty-six in 
1836, mostly by "speculators" whose names we can 
scarcely afford to record. In September, 1836, P. S. 
Spaulding having purchased land here came and 
built the first cabin in town. He then w^ent for his 
family with whom he returned in November the 
same year but, while absent for his family, Martin 
Leach arrived with his family and occupied Mr. 
Spaulding 's shanty. 

The pioneers had a custom of calling a man "set- 
tled" only wdien his family were with him. Thus 
Mr. Leach claimed to be the first settler but Mr. 
Spaulding has a claim to a certain priority. Aaron 
Brooks came the same autumn. Mr. Spaulding be- 
came a prominent citizen well known throughout the 
county and w^as honored w^ith offices of trust. 

Hiram Bowen arrived in November, 1837, with 
his wife and four small children and accompanied 
his brother Daniel B. Bowen who brought his bride 
of three weeks to this wild wilderness. The next 
day after arrival he planted apple seeds in a sap- 
trough and from these raised the first orchard and 
the first apples grown in the township as they were 
in bearing in six years. D. B. Bowen 's house was a 



well known stopping place for pioneers and trav- 
elers. He lived to be ''the oldest living resident of 
the town." Harvey Wilson, brother-in-law to D. B. 
Bowen moved in in 1838, and while building his 
cabin moved in with the latter. His brother Peter 
came in later. 

George Wilson, not related to these, came in 1843, 
and stopped with Mr. Bowen a few days and then 
moved into the log schoolhouse while he built on his 
own land. This w^as a common custom with 
pioneers. If any one had a roof over his head it 
furnished ready shelter for any incoming neighbor. 
The elasticity of these cabins was most astounding 
as witnessed by their sometimes furnishing sleeping 
quarters for thirty-six persons. If school were not 
in session the schoolhouse furnished ready domicile. 
Shall we pause to describe this most interesting 
edifice 1 

It is already a legend and will interest more 
and more the coming generations. It was a log 
cabin, of course, and roofed with bark, troughs or 
shakes, which were long shingles riven by the 
pioneers. In the earliest schooUiouses in this county 
there was at one end a great fireplace whose capa- 
cious throat helped amazingly to clear away and 
consume the encumbering forest. On three sides of 
the room pegs were driven into the logs and upon 
these wide, smooth riven slabs were laid for desks. 
In front of these were puncheon benches. To write 
or cypher all pupils faced the wall. To recite they 


turned gracefully around upon the bench, the grown 
girls gathering their skirts modestly about their 
ankles. Grown boys brought their axes and cut 
abundant, but green, fuel from the surrounding 
forest. A wooden latch with buckskin string fur- 
nished fastening for the door and with the string 
' * drawn in " it was a lock as well. A few years later 
stoves were obtainable and the open fireplace was no 
longer a necessity. Blackboards were unknown, 
neither was the house equipped with maps, charts, 
globes nor encyclopedias. 

But to return to the earlier settlers — John Mc- 
Derby and John Davis arrived in the spring of 
1837. The latter 's cattle strayed away and were 
finally found near Eaton Rapids. 

Jonathan Dean, Sr., came in 1837. He was a ver- 
itable "son of the revolution." His father was a 
soldier and was with Washington at Valley Forge. 
Mr. Dean crossed the Detroit River into Michigan 
on the third of July, 1837, and spent the Fourth in 
that then small but enterprising village. He re- 
mained with his family at Plymouth through the 
summer but in the fall his three older boys drove 
ten head of cattle and two hogs all the way via. 
Jackson, Marshall and Bellevue to Kalamo. They 
boarded with Louis Stebbins at Carlisle while build- 
ing a shanty. The rest of the family arrived on 
Christmas day, 1837. The son, Jonathan Jr., who 
became the father of our honored Frank A. Dean, 
was but seven years old when they arrived. 


Many incidents are related of the Deans in their 
new home. Indians were abundant. Fifty or a 
hundred often camped in this township for the 
winter, going to their planting grounds in the 
spring. It was twenty-five miles to the nearest 
grinding mill, at Marshall. Mr. Dean watched the 
Indian method of grinding and copied it. Instead 
of pounding upon a flat stump he hollowed the end 
of an upright log and with a stone pestle did effec- 
tive grinding and the locality was known far around 
as "Pestle Hill." Mr. Dean's eldest son, William, 
was much of a hunter but not always successful. 
He asked a stalwart young Indian to show him his 
method. He replied, "Come on, me show you." 
Finding a deer track he followed it upon his fastest 
run with William at his heels and continued this far 
into Barry County. Finally said, "No catch 'im 
today" and turned homeward. William now took 
the lead at a pace the Indian could scarcely follow 
jumping logs and streams until one proved too 
wide for the Indian's powers. He fell short and 
was doused to his waist. On reaching the Indian 
camp all, including the squaws, laughed most heart- 
ily at the Indian who was so badly beaten at his 
own game. 

Erastus demons did not settle here until 1859, 
but in June, 1838, he drove his team of horses from 
Marshall to visit the Herring brothers who came 
that spring and demons' horses on this trip are 
said to be the first horses driven in Kalamo. 


E. D. Lacey settled in Kalamo in 1843. Ed. Lacey 
became our prominent banker at Charlotte, then 
Comptroller of the Currency at Washington and 
later president of the Bankers Bank of Chicago. 

Joseph Gridley, well known throughout the 
county, settled here in 1846, and during the Civil 
War was postmaster in Kalamo. 

Until March 15, 1838, Bellevue Township had com- 
prised the northwest quarter of Eaton County. By 
act of legislature of that date the north half of Belle- 
vue was organized into a new township by the name 
of Kalamo, ^'and the first township meeting there- 
in shall be at the house of Alonzo Stebbins in said 
township. ' ' A year later, on March 21, Carmel was 
separated from this, leaving Kalamo of its present 
size. P. A. Stebbins was elected the first supervisor 
and succeeded by Bezaleel Taft, E. H. Evans, Hiram 
Bowen, P. S. Spaulding, E, D. Lacey, Benjamin 
Estes. Several of these alternated and were re- 
peatedly elected. In 1844, there were fifty-three 
resident taxpayers, and the future prosperity of the 
township was assured. 

Previous to 1856 a grist mill and a store had been 
built at Kalamo village. Joseph Kent kept hotel 
in his log house. Kalamo postoffice was established 
in 1845 and with Joseph Kent postmaster, mail was 
brought from Bellevue once a week. 

In 1873 Frank P. Davis surveyed the village plat. 
His father before him, Willard Davis of Vermont- 
ville, had been a surveyor as well as teacher and 


legislator. He taught, for a few weeks, in Bellevue 
the first school ever taught in the county, varying 
his usefulness by lay preaching on Sundays. He 
surveyed and assisted in opening many of the early 
roads in the county. 

A sawmill was built at Carlisle in 1837 by Charles 
Moffat. It was afterward owned and operated by 
0. A. Hyde and the locality was known as ' ' Hyde 's 
Mills." E. D. Lacey afterward owned the mill and 
operated it until he was elected county register 
when he moved to Charlotte. Carlisle postoffice was 
established about 1850. 

The first schoolhouse in town was built at Car- 
lisle and William Fuller was the first teacher. About 
1840 a school was kept in the southwest corner of 
the town in the Evans neighborhood. Mrs. Peter 
Wilson taught school in her own house in the Bowen 
neighborhood. In 1879 there were eleven school dis- 
tricts with 528 children of school age and $3,760 
worth of school property in the township. 

It is said that the largest tree in the county and 
perhaps the largest in the State, formerly stood in 
Kalamo Township, a gigantic sycamore, hollow the 
whole length, and the hollow sixteen or seventeen 
feet in diameter. A door was cut into this and it 
is said that men road in on horseback. The tree 
was cut down with the purpose of taking a section 
to Marshall to be occupied as a grocery. There were 
no auto trucks in those days and the scheme was 
abandoned from lack of transportation facilities. 


The government "tract book" shows five pur- 
chases of land in Walton in 1835 and seventy-three 
in 1836 ; most of these by speculators who never set- 
tled here. Captain James W. Hickok, son of a 
Revolutionary soldier who was present at the sur- 
render of Burgoine in 1777, was the first settler in 
this territory arriving in February, 1836, and bring- 
ing his family the same season. Coming in from 
Bellevue his wife's limb was broken before they 
reached their wild-wood home and she was carried 
on a litter back to Bellevue to the home of a friend 
where she remained in bed many weeks and on the 
7th of September a son was born to her, the first 
male child born in Eaton County. He was given 
the full name of our distinguished citizen, and later 
our Congressman, Isaac E. Crary Hickok, Captain 
Hickok was afterward six times elected township 
supervisor and also elected to both branches of 
State legislature. 

The second settler was P. P. Shumway who be- 
came the first supervisor. His daughter, born July 
4, 1838, was the first child born in the township. 

The third settler was Joseph Bosworth who raised 
his shanty on October 10 and moved in the 11th, 
"and slept welL" His nearest neighbor was Cap- 
tain Hickok, three miles south and to the north no 



house was nearer tlian ''Searls street, Charlotte." 
His place was afterward known as "Bosworth's 
Mill." His diary records: "October 26, cut dam 
timber; November 2, had bee on mill dam." This 
was upon his own place, on a small creek and later 
known as ''Mill Creek." During the following 
winter Mr. Bosworth w^orked at building his mill 
which was raised June 20, 1840, but a freshet carried 
it away on June 27. The dam was washed away 
soon after but all was repaired and the mill began 
sawing December 7, 1840. His son, Miles L., was 
born January 10, 1839. 

Eight years after the first settlement there were 
fifty-three resident taxpayers in the township but 
many of these were at Olivet whose history over- 
shadows the rest of Walton. The early settlers 
found an Indian village on the present site of Olivet. 

Eev. J. J. Shipherd, familiarly known at Olivet as 
"Father Shipherd", was the founder of Oberlin 
college and sought to found another on like plans 
at Grand River City, better known as Delta Mills, in 
Eaton County. In this project he seemed, for a 
time, successful. Sufficient land was purchased 
and in New England he secured subscriptions for 
sufficient money in 1836, but the panic of '37 made it 
impossible to collect these and the project was aban- 
doned although the foundation had been laid for a 
large college building. Father Shipherd was again 
commissioned by authorities at Oberlin to locate a 
site for another colony and college. On his way 

OLIVET. 109 

from Marshall to Delta Mills lie became lost in tlie 
oak grubs of Walton. He rested upon tlie hills at 
Indian Village and three times he essayed to go 
northward, but three successive times he found 
himself back upon the same hills where now stands 
Olivet college. He interpreted this as Divine guid- 
ance and kneeling in prayer dedicated the site then 
for the future college. He named the hill ^ ' Olivet ' ' 
and Indian Creek he called "Brook Kedron." The 
land was secured but the colony and the college 
were conceived in poverty and brought forth in 
destitution. He returned to Oberlin where one man 
had already promised his family to go with the new 
colony. This was ''Father Hosford", the father 
of the well known Prof. 0. Hosford. He solicited 
other families to join as that of Carlo Reed (father 
of our esteemed Fitz L. Reed), W. C. Edsell, Hiram 
Pease, Phineas Pease, George Andrus, with their 
families, and four single men, A. L. Green, Phineas 
Hagar, Joseph Bancroft and Fitz L. Reed. The 
three former came as students for the college. "With- 
in the households were two young ladies, Jennie 
Edsell and Abby Carter. The entire colony con- 
sisted of twenty-four adults and fourteen children. 
They left Oberlin on February 14, 1844, driving 
some cattle and their conveyances drawn by ox 
teams. If there is no mistake in the published dates 
they arrived at Olivet ten days later. They ar- 
rived on Sunday and Mr. Shumway vacated his 
premises for them and made them welcome to any 


stores in his barn or cellar. Some found shelter in 
the Indian huts until new shanties could be raised. 
The winter and spring were given to clearing away 
the oak grubs and planting crops. The creek was 
dammed and mills begun. Eight months were 
passed but "turning up the new soil" or "the ma- 
laria arising from the dammed creek" (the causes 
assigned by these hardy pioneers) brought ague 
every second day and terror every first. Modern 
science reveals that mosquitoes inoculated them with 
ague but this they never dreamed. In October they 
seriously discussed abandoning the project entirely 
but only a belief that God w^as testing their faith 
held the half of them faithfully here while the other 
half abandoned them. 

Early in December, 1844, Olivet college was 
opened with nine students. A. L. Green, one of the 
students, erected of logs a private dormitory and 
study for himself but it served as chapel and recita- 
tion room and later as postoffice. 

Two Oberlin students who had nearly completed 
their theological course became the teachers. These 
were Reuben Hatch and Oramel Hosford. Later 
Mr. Hatch was succeeded by Prof. Bartlett. These 
two with their wives were the teaching force for 
fifteen years. Soon as a frame residence was 
erected in Olivet it was utilized for a place of wor- 
ship on Sundays. The policy of the legislature, for 
a time, was to charter no college but the University. 
This was then chartered as Olivet Institute. 


Many youtlis received instruction here but by 1859 
the rapid growth of the Union school system offered 
nearly equally good advantages in every village of 
size, and Olivet had ceased to grow. A crisis was 
at hand. Many again thought of giving it up en- 
tirely. But at this time Rev. M. W. Fairfield was 
called as pastor of the church and principal of the 
school. Under his direction the trustees secured a 
charter for Olivet college and its doors were first 
opened as such in September, 1859, with a freshman 
class of five members. Your historian was there as 
a junior prep. The faculty consisted of Rev. M. W. 
Fairfield, Rev. 0. Hosford (who heard the first reci- 
tation in Olivet and heard the same for half a cen- 
tury), Rev. N. J. Morrison, Dr. A. A. Thompson 
and Miss Mary J. Andrews. 

The college buildings were a small two story 
frame building (since known as Colonial Hall) with 
two recitation rooms on the first floor and very small 
dormitories above, and this and a small wooden 
church ow^ned jointly by the church and college, were 
the only occupied buildings. The college museum and 
the college library were both domiciled in the church 
entry. The bare walls w^ere up for Ladies' Hall, 
since called Shipherd Hall, only these and nothing 

The pioneer days of Olivet Institute were over 
and my history might well end here but I may briefly 
add that President Fairfield resigned in 1860, and 
college classes were broken up by the Civil War. In 


1862, Rev. Thomas Jones was appointed financial 
agent and he succeeded in raising some of the much 
needed funds. In 1864, Prof. Morrison was elected 
president but resigned June 19, 1872. Prof. J. H. 
Hewitt assumed his duties until June, 1875, when 
Rev. H. Q. Butterfield was elected president. 

My own experience at Olivet was in no way ex- 
ceptional but typical and, for that reason only, per- 
missible here. I remember well there was one stu- 
dent and one only who hired his board and furnished 
room and paid therefor cash, $1.50 a week. We 
wondered greatly at his wealth or his profligacy. 
Nearly all pupils were farmers' sons or daughters. 
Nearly all rented bare rooms and furnished them 
from their homes. Light housekeeping was the pre- 
vailing practice. If the sons had sisters there, aU 
went well. If parents resided near, very much of 
cooking was done at home and sent in by mother. 
Several young men would join together in a board- 
ing club and bringing provisions from farm homes 
would hire a woman by the week to cook for them. 
They lived royally. 

I was a lad of fourteen years who had never been 
from home before. My roommate was an older lad 
who had been my teacher the year before, moreover 
he had been at Olivet one term before this and spent 
some time with old friends while I was left alone. I 
remember a feeling of dense loneliness at times 
overcame me, but home-sickness, never. Our moth- 
ers sent us from twenty-five miles away pies and 

OLIVET. 113 

cookies. I remember tliat neither lasted very long, 
and that for a well known reason. We had flour and 
mother had kindly arranged with our landlady to 
bake our bread. She sent three hot loaves to our 
room at a time. I remember one large loaf would 
disappear at a first sitting. Dish washing would 
have been our main difficulty — but we avoided it. 
This was before the days of canned vegetables or 
fruit, but mother provided us with green corn which 
she had dried. Monday was our holiday and it was 
my task each Monday to keep a kettle of this upon 
our box stove soaking and boiling but somehow I 
never made it palatable. Perhaps I forgot the salt 
or seasoning. 

I was told that the fact that I had come to Olivet 
was significant call to the Congregational ministry 
and that I should begin the study of Greek at once. 
I bolted at this as I wanted the common school 
studies to equip myself for teaching. They com- 
promised, putting me into geometry. My teacher 
of English grammar was a Latin student and we 
learned only from the mistakes he made in English. 

I was in Olivet when kerosene, or coal oil as it 
was called, first came into use. One student there 
and one only had a coal oil lamp. We wondered 
greatly that he could turn the blaze up at pleasure. 
The oil was dark colored and the blaze, although 
not black, approached that color. 

This was in the days when pioneers throughout 
Eaton County were driven back to their former 


liomes by the prevailing ague, but Olivet caught a 
double or quadruple portion. That dammed creek 
and decaying mill pond brought malaria or mos- 
quitoes, to unendurable discomfort. I stayed my 
limit, then on my well day, walked home through 
drifting snow and had my chills not every other day 
but every day for three full weeks. 

Returning to the story of the town and village, 
Edwin N. Ely came to Olivet as a student in 1848, 
but soon became associated with A. L, Green and 
his father in business enterprises. Milling and 
mercantile business were conducted by the firm and 
for many years they conducted the principle busi- 
ness of the village. The first store in Olivet was 
opened in 1848 under name of A. L. Green & Co. 
The first counter was a rough board laid upon empty 
boxes and Mr. Ely, then in their employ, opened 
the stock of goods which had been taken in exchange 
for a house and lot in Erie County, New York. 

Walton's first postoffice was established in 1838 
and Captain Hickok commissioned as first post- 
master at the same time that Jonathan Searls was 
commissioned first postmaster at Charlotte. 

In May, 1839, school districts one and two were 
organized. Between the ages of five and seventeen 
years there were fourteen children in No. 1 and six 
in No. 2. It was voted, that autumn, to build frame 
schoolhouses in each district to cost respectively 
$500 and $200. Laura Hart was employed to teach 
district No. 1 for one dollar a week. 


The early supervisors of Walton were P. P. Slium- 
way, Flavel Stone, J. W. Hickok, A. L. Green, Carlo 
Reed, Osman Chappell. The latter was elected four- 
teen different times. Captain Hickok six times, B. W. 
Warren five times, Asa K. Warren four times and 
A. L. Green three times. He was also elected to 
both branches of our State legislature and served 
for many years as leading trustee for Olivet 


The second purchase of land from the government 
in Eaton County was from section 2 in Oneida. That 
section includes the north half of the City of Grand 
Ledge, the islands and the ledges. Perhaps the pur- 
chaser, H. Mason, was a member of the surveying 
party, or learned of them, but the purchase did him 
little good. It was sold for taxes four years later. 
Land in this township seemed exceptionally desir- 
able as witnessed by four purchases in 1833, three 
in '35 and eighty-five in 1836. 

On the 5th of October, 1886, I said to my father, 
John Strange, ''So far as we can learn, you are the 
only person living who had set foot in Oneida fifty 
years ago." He was not the first settler but of 
land lookers, who afterward became settlers, he was 
of the first party. Others followed but a day later. 
He with his brother, George Strange, and Peter M. 
Kent (or Kind, as his father spelled the name) slept 
upon the ground under the canopy of heaven, upon 
section 34 which they chose the following day. Also 
on that day, October 6, 1836, they met in the 
forest six men from Canada who selected land and 
became the founders of Canada Settlement and 
neighbors for fifty years. 

The first actual settler in Oneida was Solomon 
Russell ; guided by Stephen Groger, the first settler 
in Eagle (the township next north) and a profes- 



sional land looker, he cut his road ten miles through 
this limitless forest and landed his wife and small 
children in a shanty mid two feet of snow in January 
or February, 1837. His large family, except one 
daughter, have long since passed away and she can 
tell me nothing more of how he made this perilous 
trip or who assisted him. He afterward had two 
hired men, Robert Eix and Wm, Henry, who both 
became settlers in the vicinity. Perhaps, and I may 
say probably, they assisted in cutting this road, 
building the shanty and bringing in the family. This 
probability is rendered almost certain by the further 
recorded fact that soon after this Mr. Russell fell 
upon his axe and was severely cut and was carried 
upon a litter back to Eagle. Indians may have car- 
ried him, but probably Rix and Henry. It is said 
that his incoming journey was by ox team from Or- 
leans County, New York, through Canada and Oak- 
land, Shiawassee and Clinton counties in Michigan. 
Two of his brothers were also early settlers here. 
William became the first grocer in Grand Ledge 
and John W. became a wealthy farmer just west of 
Grand Ledge. Their nephews also were early set- 
tlers here. 

The second settler (and he deserves the same 
credit as the first for he believed himself alone in 
this limitless forest) was Samuel Preston who came 
in from the south, through Jackson and Spring- 
port when there were but nine houses between 
his place and Jackson. Robert Wheaton and Asa 


Fuller had cut their path through some twenty miles 
of forest from Bellevue and erected their shanties 
the previous October. Mr. Preston followed their 
trail to their homes in Chester. There he left his 
wife and two small children while he hired these two 
neighbors to assist in cutting a road to his land eight 
miles further in. A friend had selected the land 
for him the previous fall. In a day and a half they 
reached the land. In a short time the shanty was 
erected and covered when he returned for his fam- 
ily and on the 4th of March, 1837, while Martin 
Van Buren was taking oath of office in Washing- 
ton, Mr. Preston and family ''settled" in a home 
without floor, door or window. Blankets were hung 
at these and they slept in assumed safety but upon 
pushing the blankets at the door aside in the morn- 
ing a large wolf was seen smelling at the door and 
skulking away. Mr. Preston had Indian neighbors 
but supposed there were no white settlers within 
eight miles until Mr. Groger stumbled upon him 
and told him of his neighbor Russell but one and a 
half miles away and added, "Six Canadians are 
slashing down timber to beat the oldest but two and 
a half miles east of you." He was right. Three 
brothers named Nichols and three named Nixon 
had selected their land the October before and now 
returned to remain. On the last day of February, 
1837, they arrived, built their shanty and slept 
in it the first night. Two of them returned to Can- 
ada in April to bring back oxen to log up the trees 


tliey liad cut down. They all became prominent men 
in the county, State legislature, etc. The families 
of Preston and Nichols became united in marriage 
and their sons, grandsons and great grandsons are 
today prominent professional or business men in 
the cities of Grand Rapids, Ionia, Lansing and De- 
troit, and Los Angeles, California. 

They credit the place of third settler to John 
Stanley who arrived with wife and family early in 
the spring. He sowed two bushels of spring wheat 
and from it harvested sixty bushels. They no longer 
doubted the fertility of the soil. Mr. Stanley was 
renowned for his facility in getting lost. He once 
drove his cattle across Grand River where Lansing 
now is, twelve miles away, thinking he was driving 
them towards home. At another time he forded 
Grand River six times thinking all the time he 
was headed toward home. His neighbors spent 
much time searching for him. He could not be- 
lieve his pocket compass which would point in six 
directions in a half hour. 

The venerable T. W. Nichols, ''Uncle Walker", 
arrived with the wives and families in June. His 
three grown sons had preceded him. His three 
younger sons came with him. George W. (later to 
become the best known of them all) was then fifteen 
and w^as delegated to drive the loose animals from 
Canada. Hiram, younger still, became a preacher 
and John Wesley, the youngest, became a prom- 


inent lawyer in Charlotte. Daughters innumerable 
married and settled round about. 

School district No. 1 was soon organized here and 
Abigail Billings taught the first term. She was 
courted by, and married, Jason Nichols. They be- 
came parents of a family of teachers and of a prom- 
inent laAvyer of Lansing who bears his father's 

The second term was taught by my mother, then a 
maiden, Emma 0. Sprague. I should not mention 
this fact except for an unusual pioneer incident. It 
was common for incoming pioneers to be housed in 
the schoolhouse while building a shanty if there 
was no school at the time but here was an unique 
case of housing a family and the school at the same 
time. It was easily managed. The family hid their 
dishes in a box and repaired to the forest before 
school hour where the husband cut trees and the 
wife piled the brush until noon. The teacher and 
pupils sat in the shade of the forest to eat their 
lunch while the wife prepared and ate lunch with 
her husband. Dishes were put away without wash- 
ing and school again ''took up". 

School district No. 3 was two miles further west. 
My mother taught the first school there. One winter 
there was no school when Edward McMullen arrived 
with his numerous family. They occupied the 
schoolhouse. He had but fifty cents upon arrival 
here but Irishman-like he purchased with it a pig; 
not for the parlor but kept it in a hollow log se- 


curely fastened at tlie ends, but a knot hole at the 
top served for feeding place. After a light snow, 
bear's tracks were often seen around this log and 
upon its top where bruin had smelled the pig beyond 
his reach. One morning bruin left his tracks upon 
the window sill where he had evidently smelled the 
Irish fry within. 

This story of the early settlement of South Oneida 
has often been w^ritten and published but of North 
Oneida I find no written record. Suffice it to say 
that in the northwest four brothers named Johnson 
settled in a very early day and gave it the name of 
Johnson Settlement which it will doubtless ever 
bear. Their school district is No. 2 and of course 
numbered quite early. Truman and Orange John- 
son both became, much later, merchants in Grand 
Ledge. Smith and Morris Johnson remained, I 
think, upon their farms well known and esteemed. 
Four other brothers named Jones, later settled in 
this neighborhood and reared large families, Wash- 
ington, Simeon, Charles and Bradford were their 
respective names. The latter became the father of 
J. V. Jones, a teacher of much local renown, an ex- 
ceedingly bright and apt teacher. Had he acquired 
a college education combined with energy he might 
have become a foremost teacher in the State. 

In 1844, Eric Sutherland arrived from New York 
with his large family of grown children, having 
driven a team all the way. His grandchildren and 
great grand and great, great grandchildren have be- 


come very numerous in town. His oldest son Eliliu 
had visited Oneida in 1842, but came to settle in 
1845, In 1847, when the capital was located in Lan- 
sing he took contract to clear trees from Washing- 
ton avenue, there then being but one house in Lan- 
sing. He also helped get out the timber for the old 
State Capitol. His grain market was at Marshall 
or Jackson fifty miles away. He started to name 
his eight children all with initial E, Emory, Emily, 
Elmer, Emerson, Ella C, etc., etc. 

East of these was settled Philander Parmenter, 
accidentally shot and killed while hunting deer. At 
the corner east was George W. Jones who with his 
brother-in-law, L. H. Ion, was often honored with 
public office; and near him William Henry, who 
became the wealthiest farmer in the township, and 
Amadou Aldrich known far and near for his num- 
erous family of sons and daughters. South of these 
and nearer Oneida Center were Peter Cole, Peter 
Blasier and Van Alstine. Mrs. Van Alstine lived 
to be the last survivor of the early pioneers. To- 
ward the southwest were Ambrose Preston, Henry 
Earl and Benjamin Carr. At the west Rufus Lovel, 
Lucius Benson and Dr. Lamb. Hixsons, Eddy and 
Bailey were also early settlers. 

At the site of the present city of Grand Ledge 
Henry A. Trench was the early pioneer. He owned 
forty acres at the very heart of the city. He was 
sui generis. He was educated at Oberlin and was 
for many years township inspector of schools. He 


lectured in the log sclioolliouses upon scientific sub- 
jects and occasionally wrote correct but brief arti- 
cles for the public press but, beyond this, he had 
little idea of making his learning productive. He 
had a soldering iron and went about among the 
pioneers mending tin pans and was known as ''Tin- 
ker Trench." He was an idealist and appreciated 
his picturesque surroundings. When Grand Ledge 
was becoming a village he said Nature had named 
it — the only ledge upon the Grand. Why not Grand 
Ledge as well as Grand Rapids! At a public meet- 
ing called to name the incoming postoffice, names 
of early settlers were proposed, but Reuben Wood 
said, ''Let us give it a local name." George Jones, 
always prompt upon his feet, made motion that it 
be called Grand Ledge. This was unanimously 
adopted. The question of who named Grand Ledge 
has been as perplexing a problem as, "Who struck 
Billy Patterson?" The above seems to divide the 
honors according to the facts. 

Edmund Lamson was also an early settler and 
owned much of the land here. In the winter of 1848- 
49 the legislature granted right to John W. Russell 
and Abram Smith to dam Grand River at this point. 
David Taylor joined with them in building the dam 
and mill. This was later sold to Kent, Hixson & 

In 1859 Reuben Wood and Nathan Allen built the 
first store and put in a stock of goods on the north 
side, planning that there should be the business 


center. William Eussell kept the first small gro- 
cery, also the first hotel. 

The first bridge across the river was built in 1853 
and the postoffice established in 1850 with Henry A. 
Trench postmaster. There was no mail route but 
villagers took turns in going for the mail. It was 
understood in Lansing that whoever brought the 
mail-bag was authorized to take the mail. 

The original town of Grand Ledge was laid out 
October 28, 1853, and the village incorporated by 
act of legislature approved April 8, 1871. 

The Township of Oneida was organized by act of 
legislature, approved March 6, 1838, to include the 
northeast one-fourth of Eaton County, "and the 
first election shall be at the house of T. W. Nichols. ' ' 
On March 9, 1843, this was divided and Delta and 
Windsor were formed. A year later the township 
was again divided and Benton created, first called 
Tom Benton for the distinguished U. S. Senator. 

The early officers were, of course, chosen from 
the larger field. Supervisor, A. Hayden; Town 
Clerk, J. H. Nichols; Assessors, Samuel Preston, 
John Slater and T. W. Nichols. Four of the Inger- 
sols from Delta Mills were elected to offices at this 
first election. Subsequent supervisors in Oneida, 
T. W. Nichols, Erastus Fisher, George Jones, Eph- 
riam Stockwell, L. H. Ion, Smith Johnson. Some 
of these were several times elected. 

According to the first State census, 1844, there 


were at that time fifty-three resident taxpayers in 

Of early incidents, typical of all pioneer life in 
Michigan, Robert Starks, one of the earliest settlers, 
had a wolf trap dragged away by a bear for sev- 
eral miles but he was easily trailed and finally 

Mrs. Samuel Preston, while alone with her small 
children in their rude shanty, had a recently killed 
pig hung in a small lean-to against the shanty. She 
was surprised by the ever silent Indians, three of 
whom suddenly stood beside her and demanded 
meat. She shook her head, having none to spare. 
They replied, "Smokeman (that is white man) kill 
pig. ' ' She explained she needed it for her papooses, 
pointing to them. Finally their spokesman replied, 
"Me get it." and started for the outside entrance. 
She ran before him and placing her back against 
the door defended the meat and the Indians de- 
parted. That she then fainted deponent saith not. 
Her son, Horace Preston, born that first season, 
1837, was the first child born between the Thorn- 
apple and the Grand River. (Pioneers would say 
first white child, for they counted Indians as neigh- 
bors.) When this child was a few months old Mrs. 
Preston spent the night with a sick neighbor a few 
miles aw^ay and at morn started for home with the 
babe upon her arm. She became lost in the forest 
and wandered nearly the whole day with the babe 


upon her arm which was partially paralyzed for 
several weeks. 

When my older sister w^as but one week old and 
mother still in bed, they heard commotion at the 
hog pen. The nurse (hired girl they called them 
then) ran out and saw a bear biting and mauling 
a pig toward the forest. She ran to the nearest 
neighbor, a widow with daughters. They came and 
pounded on the fence and scared bruin away. When 
my father and his brother Charles returned home 
they found the hog must be killed, but they set a 
*' dead-fall" and baited it awaiting the bear's re- 
turn. The next day they were rewarded by hearing 
a terrific bawling or howling and there was bruin 
with three immense pegs driven through him. Uncle 
Charles crushed his skull with the axe-poll and 
silence ensued. AAHien Mark Twain was shown 
Adam's grave in a cave, he said he knew it w^as 
Adam's for he reached in with a long pole and felt 
the skeleton. I know the above is true for that 
bear's skull was a favorite toy of my childhood. 


Roxand was somewhat belated in lier early de- 
velopment. Her lands seemed not so desirable to 
either pioneers or speculators, as witnessed by the 
fact that no lands were purchased there prior to 
1836 and only twenty-five purchases that year, 
which was not the case in any other township, and 
contrasts strongly with Oneida where there had 
been four times as many entries or purchases. For 
this delay there were several reasons ; there were no 
streams or promised mill sites which were such an 
attraction in other towns. The land was heavily 
timbered and lies mainly very flat and in the wet 
season was largely under water. Now, thoroughly 
drained, it exhibits some of the most productive 
farms in the county, but pioneers were not looking 
forward seventy-five years to thorough drainage. 
Again it seemed remote. It was a long way from 
Bellevue, the favorite enterport. It was not easily 
accessible from the north, the east nor southeast 
like Delta and Oneida. It was beyond the realm of 
Mr. Groger in Eagle who led so many across Grand 
River into Oneida and possibly Benton and Delta. 

Orrin Rowland and Henry Clark were the first 
settlers in 1837. Aaron and Benjamin French and 
William Cryderman followed soon after in the 
spring of 1838. Andrew Nickle also came at this 



time and raised corn and potatoes but he was not 
''settled" as his wife did not arrive until fall. He 
had begun improvements there January 1, 1838. 
His first son, John Nickle, was born there in 1840, 
one of the first births in the town. Lemuel Cole 
located land there in 1837 but whether he settled 
that year or the following is in dispute and perhaps 
can never now be determined. 

John McCargar, a young single man with time and 
enterprise, came in 1837 and searched diligently 
over several townships for land exactly to his fancy. 
Samuel Preston, who had then been but a few weeks 
in Oneida, finally showed him the tract that filled 
his eye, upon the south town line of Roxand, high 
and dry without a foot of waste. He purchased 
two hundred acres. He was lost over night in a 
swamp on his way to Ionia to secure this land. For 
three months, in the spring of 1838, he lived alone 
in a small shanty he had built upon this land, doing 
his own cooking and without any help. He married 
in 1843, and was then "settled." 

Henry A. Moyer settled just west of him in 1839 
and became very prominent in the town and county. 
He was born in New York, February 12, 1812. He 
came to Washtenaw County in 1833, and thence to 
Eaton County. His home was the place of holding- 
township elections and was a stopping place for 
Indians. He and his wife were noted for their 
hospitality. He was the first postmaster in Roxand 
in 1849 and his son, W. Irving, was postmaster dur- 


ing the war and later. Mrs. Mary F. Youngblood, 
sales manager for tliis History, is a daughter of 
W. I. Moyer. 

Henry A. Moyer took deep interest in public af- 
fairs and offices were tlirust upon him during his 
life which terminated in 1857. His four sons and 
daughter (who married Dr. P. Green of Vermont- 
ville) were all highly esteemed. 

John Fullerton came with wife and two children 
on July 4, 1843. 

Another account says that John Dow was the first 
settler in Roxand in 1837. He was upon the extreme 
west line, his farm lying in both Roxand and Sun- 
field. Rowland and Clark were in the east and 
might have lived many months thinking there were 
no others within many miles. Give due credit to all 
for pioneer enterprise. Mr. Dow reported that he 
drove an ox team forty-eight miles to mill ; the trip 
and return required nine days. He was super- 
visor of Chester when Roxand was a portion of 
that town and afterward supervisor of Roxand and 
Sunfield forty-three years, or so long that the mem- 
ory of man ran not to the contrary. 

Robert Rix settled in Roxand about 1840 but he 
had a previous record connected with pioneer his- 
tory of Eaton county that merits recall. We first 
hear of him at Portland in 1835. In November of 
that year he started with Mr. Hixson to drive ox 
teams to Detroit for provisions. A terrible rain 
storm overwhelmed them at night before they 


reached Dewitt. They were drenched to their skins 
and the oxen inextricably mired in darkness so in- 
tense that naught could be seen. They remained all 
night chilled to their bones with their teams in worse 
plight still. They were able to proceed the next day 
and from there to Detroit the roads were incon- 
ceivably bad — no crossways over swamps, sloughs 
nor streams and much travel had reduced the roads 
to a mush axle deep. They were on their way to 
Detroit from November 7 until December 25. A 
merry Christmas truly. They stayed in the open 
air eleven nights on this trip. Mr. Rix rightly said, 
"No one can appreciate the difficulties and hard- 
ships of such trips unless he has had similar ex- 

We next find Mr. Rix in Oneida building the first 
shanty there, and that for Solomon Russell. Mr. 
Russell had cut a path to his land through ten miles 
of trackless forest without guide except the survey- 
ors ' marks. They began together to cut logs for the 
shanty but while cutting the second log Mr. Russell 
fell upon his axe and nearly severed his arm. He 
was cared for and Mr. Rix completed the shanty 
alone and the family moved in before it was com- 
pleted, while the weather was intensely cold. 

In 1837 Mr. Rix entered forty acres on section 21 
in Oneida and settled there. Two years later he 
sold and moved to Ada in Kent county w'here he 
remained one and a half years and next settled more 
permanently on section 35 in Roxand. He was 


elected in 1843 the first supervisor of Roxand but 
resigned and John Dow succeeded him and held the 
office until 1851, when he built a new house upon 
his farm, but across the road in Sunfield, and there 
he was supervisor for the succeeding twenty-eight 
years. First elected in 1851, Henry A. Moyer was 
supervisor of Roxand five years and then John 
Vanhouten until 1871. 

Peter C. Vanhouten settled here in 1838, and 
Adam Boyer in 1839. 

By act of legislature, March 19, 1843, this town- 
ship was set off from Chester and given the name of 
Roxand. The first election was April 17, 1843, with 
but eighteen electors. 

The origin of the name was long in dispute. It 
was not Rock-sand; that is not found there. All 
agree the name came through illegible writing. 
Some said the petitioner asked that it be named 
Roxana for a notorious woman. The legislative 
clerk mistook the final a for a d. Hence the name. 
Others say the clerk could read R o x and some- 
thing more was utterly illegible, so he wrote and. 

The Capitol was located at Lansing in 1837, when 
there were at most but two houses there. Roads 
were needed to reach this important center. Wil- 
lard Davis of Vermontville was employed to survey 
a State road from that place. A very direct route 
would have been directly east through the wilds of 
Chester and Benton to where Potterville now is and 
thence into Lansing by the Battle Creek or Char- 


lotte road. An equally direct route would have 
been from Vermontville northeast into the black ash, 
elm and soft maple flats of Roxand and thence east 
into Lansing but the road was laid with many angles 
to accommodate the early settlers. From Ver- 
montville northeast, a few miles to the township line, 
thence east to pass Moyer, McCargar, Maxson, H. 
Earl and Ambrose Preston, thence again northeast 
to reach Samuel Preston and McMullen and again 
east to pass Strange, Huckins and to Canada Set- 
tlement, thence northeast to accommodate John 
and Samuel Nixon in Delta and on to what is now 
known as Saginaw street. This led into Lansing a 
half mile north of the Capitol and was nearly a mile 
further than if they had gone directly east on St. 
Joseph street. This would have been again through 
black ash flats, needing cross-way for many miles. 

I well remember when, many years later, Samuel 
Nixon circulated a very urgent remonstrance 
against opening St. Joseph street saying it would be 
ten years before it could be as good as the road now 
in use. Traveling that road today between those 
fertile farms we may well wonder that anyone ever 
opposed opening a road upon that section line. 

The diagonal portions of that Lansing State road 
have nearly all been taken up and closed long ago. 
Farmers do not favor diagonal roads through their 
farms although they somewhat shorten distances to 

It was not until 1869 that Grand Ledge had an 


operating railroad bringing a market somewhat 
nearer to Eoxand and about ten years later still 
Roxand had a railroad of her own and a sprouting 
village at Mulliken. 

A girl student at Olivet college in more recent 
years read an essay describing her grandfather's 
flight through the forest pursued by the wolves of 
Roxand. This was taken by some as a real pioneer 
incident but the then living pioneers who had known 
the forest in the early days regarded it as purely 
imaginative fiction. 

Speaking of pioneers and of colleges it is perhaps 
fitting here (space permitting) to pay some tribute 
to that pioneer of farmers' colleges, the first State 
agricultural college ever established on earth, our 
own Michigan Agricultural College. This was es- 
tablished near Lansing and opened for students in 
1857. I was graduated there ten years later in 1867 
(the first young man, I think, from Oneida ever 
graduated from any college.) My classmate, Henry 
Jenison of Eagle, and I are now the oldest surviving 

At the semi-centennial of the birth of this college 
a very important celebration was given in May, 
1907. President Roosevelt gave a memorable ad- 
dress. I prepared for that occasion the following 
verse : 

The Fakmers' Morning. 

"And the Evening and, the Morning were the first Day." 

In. early twilight of our history ere the darkness covered all 
One named Cain attempted farming, all because of Adam's fall. 
But his fruits were not accepted; he was sent to land of Nod, 
(Meaning, doubtless, land of slumber) He was curst, we read, 
of God. 

And darkness covered the earth. 

And men toiled for their subsistence, digging roots and gnawing 

Scarcely clothed and ever hungry, toiling, sitting in the dark. 
Then some puny goats they captured, yielding milk and flesh 

of kid. 
And some herds of kine surrounded; that was all the farmers did. 
And darkness veiled the whole earth. 

Then the centuries kept passing and this darkness, ever dense, 
Never lifted, never lifted; e'en its substance you could sense. 
Sixty centuries of night time; men and women homespun clad; 
Children in the snow were barefoot; comforts very few they had. 
And poverty ruled o'er the household. 

Sixty centuries of struggling; men had learned to wield the 

Or with ax or hoe or sickle in the broiling sun to writhe. 
Men were racked on wheel of labor, and their homes could 

scarce provide 
With the means for their subsistence; little wealth was there 


And the night wore weary on. 

Some there were who carried torches, thinking thus to shed some 

In the dark and doleful places of that long drawn toilsome night. 
There was Dr. Benjamin Franklin with his little lamps alive, 



"He who by the plow would prosper must, himself, hold it 

or drive." 
General Washington, the farmer, wakeful to his country's needs, 
Advocated crop rotation, said "Import some better breeds." 
And a distant light seemed dawning. 

In the twilight of the morning Bakewell dreamed, as in the 

How we might improve our cattle. Then he woke and struck 

a light. 
Jethro TuU said, "Lessen labor, let machinery lighten toil. 
Humphrey Davy held a search light; like X-ray it shone through 

Laws and Gilbert, like great prophets, held aloft this brilliant 

"Thought should dominate all labor." Then may end this 

darkest night. 

And our horizon was brightening. 

Then the stars seemed paling gently, stars of superstitious light. 

These had given light scarce plenty through that long drawn, 
toilsome night. 

By their light our great ancestors thought they read in wav- 
ering line, 

"Watch the moon for all your movements. Plow and plant and 
pluck by sign." 

Now the stars are swiftly paling. What's that marvelous light 
in east? 

While their eyes are eager watching it has rapidly increased. 
'Tis the rising sun approaching. 

While they watched a blinding, fierce light cast o'er earth its 

dazzling sheen; 
Farmers and their sons were startled; naught like it before 

was seen. 
And they cried out, "Put that light out ere it blinds our blinking 

But their sons looked eager at it, questioning if their sires were 


It was the State Agricultural College. 


And they watched it through smoked glasses as from earth it 

seemed to rise, 
Glasses too of many colors, for its brightness tried their eyes. 
While some blinking eyes were blinded by the light that shone 

Other intellects illumined glowed like dew drops in the sun. 
Myriads of glistening dew drops sparkled in this morning bright, 
And to some that sun seemed precious when they first beheld 

its light. 

And they bathed their souls in its sunshine. 

Dew drops kissed by sun soon scatter, but they fructify the 

And the plants begin to blossom, welcoming the sun's advance. 
And the morning glories, early ope' at first approach of sun. 
Many blossoms greet the farmer from this light that's scarce 


And the college light is looming. 

Some bouquets already gathered from the fields she's looked upon 
Testify by their sweet perfume of the light they've drawn 

Large bouquets of many blossoms, rich with fragrant honey, too. 
Shall I name to you some blossoms that to all the world are new 
While we bask in the college sunshine? 

First and foremost, cultured children, taught by college or her 

For she's sent forth many teachers, some enthusiastic ones. 

"Yes, them flowers are purty, purty," sordid sires may some- 
times say, 

"But we want flowers that yield us honey; something that we 
know will pay, 

"Something we can turn to money; meed of labor, learning, law, 

"The almighty golden dollah; that's what all are fighting fob." 
iSuch the sordid sentiment of some. 


Well, from sheep's back shear your fleeces, forty pounds, some- 
times, you know, 

All because our light increases; we have learned to make it 

And your porkers from old rooters man's intelligence has grown. 

Your best cow gave how much butter, ere the college light had 

Are you using sterilizers for the microbes which you own? 

Have you learned of fertilizers now by college nodules grown 
By soil innoculation? 

Are you raising beets for sugar, canning waste in silo too? 

Spraying fruits, dehorning cattle? Thousand things you now 
can do. 

What do your tomatoes look like by the side of ancient ones? 

Are you raising seedless apples, thornless berries, pitless plums? 

What destroyed the smut and weevil? What think you of pedi- 
greed wheat? 

What about that improved seed corn adding millions in one 

■These but morning lory blossoms, many hued. 

Sixty centuries of night! The day should surely be as long. 
Half a century of light; and now we pray that light prolong. 
These were blossoms plucked at morn; what may we hope from 

midday sun? 
The college light has scarcely dawned. Watch for results not 

yet begun. 
The rising sun makes dew drop diamonds; 'tis midday sun 

that ripens grain. 
The morning sun has ibrought us treasure. None can conceive 

our future gain. 
We've learned that light can lessen labor, God's gifts to gather 

from glad soil. 
'Tis morning now, awake! Arise, and greet the sun that lights 

our toil — 

While the College Sun is rising! 


Benton, Tom Benton, was not far behind the other 
townships, first settled in 1837. There was but one 
purchase of government land here in 1835, but there 
were forty-five in 1836. 

Japhet Fisher is counted the first settler in the 
spring of 1837, although he was not married until 
1838. We first learned of him when he was "hired 
man" with Samuel and Jonathan Searls when 
theirs was the only habitation in the county save at 
Bellevue. They were at the southeast edge of the 
Charlotte prairie. Fisher w^as with them when Mrs. 
Searls so suddenly died. He ran at once to Bellevue 
to tell them of the approaching funeral cortege and 
to send his own clothes as far as Indian Village, 
where Olivet now is, that the mourning husband 
might be decently dressed. Fisher selected land 
near Searls but in applying for it he named town- 
ship three north instead of two north as he intended. 
This placed him in Benton six miles further away. 
For a time he thought the land not worth occupying 
but in 1837, he raised both corn and potatoes there 
while he courted a girl in Chester. He was a some- 
what eccentric character and almost constantly went 
barefooted until his soles were callused until briars 
and thistles affected them not at all. His frolicsome 
neighbors often experimented with them greatly to 
their amusement. 



Orrin Moody was the next settler in the northwest 
part of town where he built his shanty in the spring 
of 1837. He came in on the Clinton trail but must 
have cut his own path through several miles. He 
was to the manner born. I know not how many 
farms he had cleared in New York and elsewhere; 
but when this farm was well cleared he moved three 
miles further east into dense forest where he and 
his grown sons cleared three farms and then went to 
the wilds of Isabella county. Moody was an expert 
in all the arts of clearing land. It was his delight, 
at a logging bee, to select his three rollers or assist- 
ants, and then, with his team of oxen, to put up more 
and larger log heaps than all the rest. 

Frederic Young came in May of the same year 
and built his shanty at the north edge of the ''Old 
Maid's swamp" one and one-half miles from neigh- 
bors and so it remained for many years. I remem- 
ber many a winter's night listening to the howling 
wolves and asking father, where are they! "Over by 
Fred Youngs 's" was the constant answer. Mrs. 
Young was very timid and her long pioneer life 
must have been constant misery. 

Hosey Hovey, a surveyor, settled here in 1840, 
and left his name to Hovey Settlement, which it may 
ever retain although otherwise his name is nearly 

B. F. Bailey was an early settler and the first 
supervisor. His son, Frank Bailey, born in 1841, 


was the first male ''white" child born in the town- 

H. H. Hatch moved in in 1840 and his daughter 
Gertrude was the first child born here. 

Bennett I. Claflin on the 4th of July, 1842, twelve 
days after his marriage, settled here. "Their chil- 
dren arise up and call them blessed." He was the 
first mail carrier. He carried mail once a week 
from Jackson to Grand Eapids on the old Clinton 
Trail and he had several holes dug along the route 
where he would pass the night alone with his mail- 
bag. This was a United States road built under 
territorial rule. It ran from Clinton, through Jack- 
son, Spicerville, Eaton, a corner of Benton, then 
Chester, etc. Most of it has long since been closed. 

William Quantrell settled here in May, 1841. He 
had been a brick maker and finding upon his land 
abundant clay of good quality he, at once, began 
brickmaking. His product was used largely in 
Charlotte and in many farm dwellings. 

Moses Fox settled here in 1840, and Lorenzo 
Hatch in 1842, James Taggart about the same time. 
He became well known for his rugged worth and 
was eight times elected supervisor. 

John Higby settled here October 14, 1841. His 
sons became merchants in Charlotte where the sons 
of later generations still remain, honored and 

Benjamin Landers was an early settler who was 
six times elected supervisor. He with Hiram Mc- 


Intyre was school inspector for a generation. Estes 
Mclntyre, a brother, became a wealthy farmer here. 
Morgan Thomas was supervisor from 1848- '50. 

Ira Bailey, "Fiddler Bailey," "Rail Bailey" was 
an early character here of whom many amusing- 
stories are told. Long, angular, awkward; he re- 
quired an immense pair of boots but asked to buy 
them very cheap as he wanted to pay cash. That 
was a rare offer for those days but he was finally 
fitted. To test them he deliberately walked out in 
mud ankle deep and returning he again explained 
that he wanted to pay cash but he had not a cent in 
the world. A tradition remained for many years 
that he never paid for the boots but the amusement 
this afforded the roisterers paid for them many 
times. This giant could run like the wind. Pitted 
against the assumed fleetest man in the county he 
easily outran him and then said he could outrun him 
while carrying the heaviest rail in a given fence. 
This too he did. Another version is that he car- 
ried the heavy rail and outran a horse a distance of 
ten rods, Bailey taking a running start, the horse 
to start as he passed him. Like the settlers in Belle- 
vue these men were much given to athletic sports 
and horse-play. Merrils Freeman was the smallest 
man in town and men of giant strength like Bailey 
and Jim Taggart were dumbfounded when Freeman 
could easily outlift them. 

These Jacksonian democrats, Higby, Hovey, Tag- 
gart, et. al., would name their town for "Old Bui- 


lion", United States Senator Thomas H. Benton. 
It was organized by act of legislature, March 9, 
1843, and named Tom Benton. 

When Linus Potter arrived and settled where Pot- 
terville now is, in November, 1844, he said he should 
have that Tom cut off and so he did at once. March 
19, 1845, it was renamed by the legislature, Benton. 
The following year Linus Potter was elected super- 
visor and because of his early influence and the 
prominence of his sons in later years he deserves 
extended notice. The object of this history is to 
record pioneer experiences and his were interesting 
if not unique. 

Linus Potter came from Cayuga County, New 
York, in autumn of 1830, via. Erie canal, then very 
new and very small, and by boat to Detroit. Their 
destination at that time was Saline, then the largest 
village on the road to Chicago. He and his wife 
walked this entire distance. Their son, George N., 
was then barely three years old and their daughter, 
Louisa (afterward the wife of John F. Carman), 
was a babe in arms. It is related that Mr. Potter 
carried all their worldly goods in a bundle upon his 
back. This he carried ahead as far as seemed safe 
and leaving it returned for the wife and children. 
He carried George, and his wife the babe, to the 
bundle or beyond to a resting place upon a log while 
he again carried the bundle, thus he walked the en- 
tire distance from Detroit to Saline three times over. 


He tlien built in Saline the first frame house ever 
erected there. 

T. Edgar Potter, their second son, was born in 
Saline, March 10, 1832, and from his autobiography 
I gather the following facts. Quoting, "I well re- 
member when the Michigan Central Railroad was 
finished as far west as Ypsilanti. My father was in- 
vited to the celebration there and took me with him. 
We witnessed the arrival of the first passenger train 
from Detroit carrying the officers of the road and 
General Cass who was to speak. About two inches 
of light snow had fallen and we saw two men sitting 
on opposite ends of the crossbar with large splint 
brooms with which they swept the snow from the 
rails. Such was the snowplow of that day. My 
father, who was a surveyor, had just returned from 
a surveying trip and he was called upon for a 
description of the new country. On reaching home I 
told my mother I had seen the roasted ox, the brass 
band, a railroad train and had heard General Cass 
and my father make speeches to the people. 

''My father was a strong whig and when, in the 
campaign of 1840, he heard that General Harrison 
was to speak at Fort Meigs in Ohio, seventy-five 
miles from us, he helped get up a party of sixty men 
to hear him. Their wagon was equipped with a flag 
staff, the stars and stripes, two live coons and two 
barrels of cider. They returned seven days later, 
all except the cider. 

"By January, 1845, five other children had been 


added to our family and we were on our way to the 
wilds of Eaton County. My father and brother 
George had preceded us and, cutting their road four 
miles beyond the last inhabitant at Pray's, had 
built for us two shanties each sixteen by twenty and 
and eight foot roofed space between them. Not a 
nail was used in these two shanties and the only ex- 
pense for them was for two windows each with six, 
seven by nine, panes of glass. Though I was not 
quite thirteen years old my father sent me ahead, 
one day in advance, with our live stock, three cows, 
two yearlings, five sheep and two hogs. My father 
provided a rude map with places marked where I 
was to stop over night. I was allowed six days for 
the trip and was not overtaken until the fifth day 
at Eaton Rapids. We had twelve miles yet to go 
but we reached our shanty before night and met a 
warm welcome by George who had been left there 
by father to guard the place. 

''All of us seven children had measles that winter 
but in spite of our hardships we managed to clear 
seven acres and get them into spring crops. When 
harvested we sowed three of these acres to wheat. 
During the following winter my father hauled logs 
to Eaton Rapids sawmill and gave half of them for 
sawing the remainder. With these he built the first 
frame barn near there and my sister Louisa taught, 
in this barn, the first school in the east half of the 

' ' The following July my father cut the three acres 


of wheat with a sickle and I bound and set it up. 
The next day he cut an acre for a neighbor. He was 
overheated and drank freely of water. This was his 
last day's work. July 26, 1846, we buried him in 
the wheatfield just harvested. My mother was now 
a widow with seven children, eighty acres of land 
and but seven of it cleared. My father was filling 
the offices of justice of the peace and supervisor up 
to the time of his death. The next day we drew our 
wheat, threshed ten bushels of it with flails and I 
was sent to Delta to mill with it. I slept in the mill 
at night and returned the next day. 

"We cleared the land and sowed ten acres of 
wheat that fall and from it harvested nearly 400 
bushels. One evening that same fall a man brought 
word that a bear w^as killing Mrs. Jones' hog but 
two miles north of us and asked that we boys should 
go with our guns and lanterns while he went further 
for a neighbor who had bear dogs. We reached the 
farm and found the hog with a broken back and 
from the barking dogs we knew the bear was not 
far away. We killed the hog, shut up the dogs and 
then drew the hog onto a bridge and hid ourselves 
in a deep ravine where we could look up tow^ard the 
sky and see bruin if he came upon the bridge. We 
had not long to wait. My brother whispered, ''Now, 
give it to him." We both fired at once. The bear 
gave a jump and landed within six feet of us and 
ran into a brush-heap. Soon the men arrived with 
the bear dogs. These were let loose and the bear. 


wounded so he could not run, killed one and another 
was shot by a man trying to shoot the bear. A man 
then approached within ten feet and shot the bear 
in the head killing him. We sent for an ox team 
and a stoneboat and the bear was drawn to our 
home. The next day a feast was held and neighbors 
came for a piece of the largest bear ever killed in 
that region. He weighed over 400 pounds and it 
was found that both our shots had pierced him 
through. He had been a great scourge for many 
miles around. Pork was more safely grown after 

''In 1847, the capitol was located at Lansing and 
a band of ten surveyors were surveying an air line 
road from Battle Creek to Lansing. They stopped 
over night at our shanty, mother cooking for them. 
They needed another man and offered twenty-five 
cents a day and board. I, then fifteen years old, was 
taken on. The fifth day we reached Lansing and 
went down Washington avenue, which had simply 
been underbrushed and that day we assisted in 
raising the old capitol which was raised like a coun- 
try barn. In the month of September of that year 
I made another journey to Lansing under different 
circumstances. My uncle, C. P. Sprague, and his 
young wife, both teachers, came to Lansing. There 
was no schoolhouse nor means for building one. 
Five families in Eaton county, his relatives, volun- 
teered to build him one and present it to him. 
Samuel Preston, John Strange, George P. Carman, 


W. H. Taylor and myself, representing my mother's 
family, with axes and teams met in Lansing and in 
ten days had completed a two story schoolhouse and 
residence. There my Uncle Cor. and wife lived and 
taught the first school in Lansing. 

''In the spring of 1848, jobs were let for building 
the State road to Lansing that I had helped to sur- 
vey. I, then sixteen, secured a contract to build 
eighty rods for which I was to receive $250 in State 
script. I sold $100 of this for $20 and with the 
balance located 120 acres of Michigan land. While 
building this and resting one day at noon, three deer 
approached and ran, as I thought, into a clump of 
brush. I fired my gun in the direction and had the 
misfortune to kill my mother's only cow. The beef 
was saved but my mother and seven children were 
without milk for two years thereafter. During the 
winter of 1848-49, we cut twenty acres of timber and 
burned most of it to ashes for black salts sold to 
make saleratus. 

''When gold was discovered in California, I was 
seventeen years old and eager to go but mother and 
George thought I was too young but three years 
later they assisted me in raising the needed money 
for the overland journey." 

Such the early story of Ed. Potter in Eaton 


Let US for a moment watcli the inspiring career of 
George N. Potter. Left at eighteen years the finan- 
cial head of his mother's large family, at twenty he 
had preempted forty acres for himself, slashed 
do^vn the timber, burned it to ashes and sold black- 
salts to more than pay for it all. At twenty-one 
married and living in his own neat log house. At 
twenty-nine he was elected sheriff of the county and 
later provost marshal and finally elected to a seat in 
the State Senate. 

In 1866, he brought the first circular sawmill into 
the county at a cost of $3,300. It was guaranteed to 
cut 10,000 feet a day. Neighbors said George was 
a fool to believe it as the best mills cut but 3,000. 
The first day it ran it cut 10,600 and the second 
day 14,600. In ninety-one days it had paid for itself 
and put $600 in George's pocket, and lumber upon 
the farms of patrons for miles around. His four 
younger brothers, then in Minnesota, bought a port- 
able mill and the rapid acquirement of wealth by the 
Potter family had begun. With the portable mill a 
new era da^vned upon Benton and Eaton County. 
Instead of the land encumbered to a depth of a 
hundred feet with rubbish that must be burned, it 
was found that the first crop of timber was worth 
many times more than any succeeding crop. 

Of this pioneer family of seven children, the 
youngest, James W., is the only survivor. He is 
the donor of Potter Park to the City of Lansing. 


Previous to 1836 there had been no government 
land purchased in Brookfield but in that year there 
were forty-one purchases. Perhaps the younger 
generation are not aware that more land in Michigan 
was purchased in 1836 than in all the years preced- 
ing and for many years thereafter. The reasons for 
this are easily found. Detroit had been settled more 
than a century. The flat lying lands for thirty 
miles back of it were under water part of the year 
and for the rest of the time seemed bottomless mud. 
Statements had been published far and wide that 
there was scarcely an acre in Michigan upon w^hich 
a horse could stand. About 1830 a few settlers had 
penetrated to the rolling lands of Oakland and 
Washtenaw. They had proved the fertility of the 
soil and had sent glowing reports back to their east- 
ern friends. From the abundance of money (such 
as it was) the little grain or pork that they produced 
brought almost fabulous prices. These glowing re- 
ports bore fruit in 1836. Immigration was at flood 
tide. Three men could organize and call themselves 
a bank and could issue unlimited floods of their 
notes. Their value was questioned and inspectors 
were sent to investigate. Kegs of silver were sent 
just in advance of the inspectors. They found and 
reported abundance of silver in the first bank. While 



they were eating dinner tlie silver was sent ahead to 
the next bank and so around. In 1837 came the in- 
evitable collapse. Banks closed and their managers 
disappeared. ''Eed-dog" and ''wildcat" currency- 
was now in the hands of the pioneers and was of no 
value whatever. Of real money there was none. 
Business was at a standstill. No one could meet his 
promises nor purchase necessities. Immigration 
nearly ceased. 

However fertile the fields of Brookfield of today 
they were not attractive to the pioneers. Narrow 
Lake and wider swamps separated the drier por- 
tions by impassable barriers. If settlers in the 
east came in through Spicerville and in the west 
through Bellevue they might have lived for years 
knowing naught of the presence of each other. 

The first settlers were said to have been Peter 
Moe and his sons, Ezra and Henry, and John Boody 
in the northeast corner in 1837. Moetown was the 
name given this corner. Jesse Hart came the same 
year to the northwest corner. Five years later he 
became the first supervisor. He relates many inter- 
esting experiences. He started from Summit 
County, Ohio, on the 10th of October with two yoke 
of oxen on a light wagon. Said he w^orked hard 
eight days to pass thirty-two miles of the black 
swamp. He reached the end of all roads at Joseph 
Bosworth's on the 6th of November and still four 
miles from his land. He left his bride at Bosworth's 
shanty and the tv\^o men together cut a path to his 


land and began a shanty upon it. When he had 
half the roof on and a door cut, but no door nor 
floor, he moved in with his new wife. He wrote 
that, "The first night we made our bed on some 
split pieces of basswood in a corner of the shanty, 
built a fire in another corner, hung up a blanket for 
a door and same around the bed and it seemed quite 
like home. ' ' 

They lived in that shanty the two happiest years 
of their lives and here their first child was born, 
March 20, 1839. The following fall they built a log 

Mr. Hart, so near the swamp, had interesting 
stories of bear killings when bruin ventured among 
his hogs. In 1842 he built the first frame barn in 
Brookfield and in 1851, a new frame house out on 
the road and he adds, ''For there were roads laid 
out then." 

In the meantime Moetown received acquisitions 
of J. S. Moe, J. Otely, and J. E. Fisher. S. S. Bly, 
C. Kintner, E. P. Stewart and Amos Carrier were 
early settlers. 

I quote as follows from J. C. Sherman as pub- 
lished in The Charlotte Republican in 1869: 

' ' In the year 1839 Charles R. Sherman moved into 
the town and settled on the eastern bank of Battle 
Creek. He got his goods as far as John Boody's 
as there was a passable road from Jackson that 
far, but further there was none. He got Mr. Boody 
and his boys to take his ox sled, load on a few goods 


and draw them down to the swamp ; then they had 
to unyoke the oxen, draw the sled over by hand, and 
drive the oxen a long way up the swamp until they 
could find a fording place, wallow them through, and 
go down the other side to where the sled was. 
They were then ready to yoke up the oxen and 
start again on their journey, clearing a road as they 
went. Drawing the balance of the things across 
the swamp on a hand sled and then two miles further 
with a team, he finally got settled, the big swamp 
on one side and the creek on the other. The nearest 
gristmill or store was at Eaton Rapids and he could 
only get there in winter, when the swamp was frozen 
over. ' ' 

Peter Williams came in 1841 and claimed the 
honor of having the first temperance raising in 
town and also the first shingle roof although it was 
but a log house. 

As in every township most of the early purchasers 
were speculators who never settled here but of the 
forty-one who purchased land here in 1836, seven 
became settlers: J. Boody, P. Moe, H. Moe, B. 
Knight, C. Kenter, J. P. Woodbury and H. C. Whit- 
tum. The last of these when twenty-two years of 
age, was living at Phelps, New York. He earned 
$250 quarrying lime-stone with pickaxe and wheel- 
barrow; with this money he started to locate a 
future home in the wilds of Michigan. Taking 
canal boat to Buffalo, he there boarded a lake boat 
for Toledo and walked through the woods to Brook- 


field township where he located a quarter of section 
10 and then walked to the land office at Ionia which 
he found closed for two weeks and the agent away 
on a vacation. He and another young man, who was 
on the same errand, took a job freighting twenty-five 
barrels of flour to Grand Rapids. They felled the 
trees and built a raft for the purpose, loaded the 
flour and "polled" it down the river to their destina- 
tion and walked back to Ionia and succeeded in 
making the entry. He then walked back to Toledo 
and took the boat for his return home. The patent 
for this land which still remains in the family, was 
signed by Martin Van Buren, November 2, 1837, 
and is still in a good state of preservation. Mr. 
Whittum did not return to settle here until twenty- 
five years later when he brought his wife and eight 
children, four of whom are still living (1923) one 
of them the wife of J. Sumner Hamlin of Eaton 

The first schoolhouse in town was built of logs 
and near the residence of Nicholas Boody. For a 
number of years this was the only public building 
in town and was used for town meetings, etc. The 
first school in town was taught by Roxana Skinner 
in 1841. The first marriage in town was B. B. 
Snyder to Sarah Moe. 

Mr. Sherman gives a very amusing account of 
the marriage of one Wickwire to Margaret Boody. 
The groom thought he had no suitable clothes for 
the ceremony. He tried to borrow but the best of- 


fered were dilapidated shoes and a worn chip hat. 
He said he thought it a d — d poor town where a 
man could not borrow clothes to get married in. 
Esquire Rose was asked to perform the ceremony. 
At first he declined because of inexperience, but 
his wife, anxious that he should make his official 
mark, urged him to attempt the task. He prepared a 
fitting ceremony in mind but, case in hand, it fled 
his memory utterly. He turned red, then pale, stam- 
mered and finally told the groom he must get some- 
one else as he could not go on. The plighted couple 
could not consent to this. They arranged a cere- 
mony and the groom lined it for the justice who 
repeated it line by line successfully. The bride was 
so overjoyed at this happy turn in affairs that she 
threw her arms about the affrighted justice and 
gave him a rousing smack for doing it so nicely. 

Another good justice story is that of John Boody. 
Austin Blair, the future war Governor of Michigan, 
was engaged to defend a prisoner before him. 
Papers were illegally drawn and Blair demanded 
the prisoner's release. Boody dissented. Blair 
then told the prisoner he could go as those papers 
could not hold him. **Vot ish dat?" shouted the 
'Squire, "You tell dat prisoner he can go! Py tam, 
Mr. Blair, you let dat prisoner go and I sends a 
bench warrant for him and you too, so sure as Got. ' ' 

Four of John Boody 's little children, two boys 
and two girls, were hunting leeks and became lost in 
the woods in the spring of 1840. When night came 


they crept into a hollow log and remained there the 
entire next day as it was snowing fast. Neighbors 
searched in vain and finally built numerous fires at 
night thinking they might attract the children. Sure 
enough, on the morning of the third day, the chil- 
dren were found by one of the fires where they had 
spent the night. 

Surrounded by swamps the settlers of Brookfield 
suffered much from depredations of bears and 
wolves. They had exciting experiences in extermi- 
nating these pests but space forbids their repeti- 

The township was organized by act of the legis- 
lature approved March 20, 1841, and in 1842 town- 
ship records relate it was ''Resolved that geese, 
hens, hogs (with the exception of boars), be free 
cominers, waying over forty weight for the year 

By the State census of 1844 there were thirty- 
three taxpayers in town. If their taxes were small, 
the numbers paying taxes approached those in more 
favored towns. 

Jesse Hart was eleven times elected supervisor, 
alternating with G. W. Knight and Pardon H. 
Fisher. In 1879 and '80, our own George A. Perry, 
for so many years the very efficient Secretary of 
our Pioneer Society, was elected supervisor of 
Brookfield township. 


The last township in the county, save one, to re- 
ceive permanent settlers was Windsor, not because 
of unattractive land as is shown by the fact that 
there were sixty-three purchases here in the year 
1836, but due rather to its remoteness from the earl- 
ier settlements. One historian relates that the early 
pioneers of Windsor seemed to have greater hard- 
ships in their battle with the wilderness than the 
inhabitants of any other township in the county. I 
think this cannot hold true. While they had some 
perilous incidents I would award the palm for hard- 
ships to those who settled the swamps of Brookfield 
or the remote forests of Delta. Even this historian 
when he began to tell of the hardships of Windsor 
told them of Delta settlers and his story ran as fol- 
lows: In November, 1836, before Windsor had a 
settler within its limits, a Mr. Lewis and Mr. Bill- 
ings started to cross the township on their way to 
Ingersoll's on Grand River. They had a train of 
two wagons drawn by two yoke of oxen and fol- 
lowed by two cows. They reached the ''Old Maid's 
Swamp ' ' which centered near where the four towns 
of Oneida, Delta, Windsor and Benton corner to- 
gether. Here they became lost and Mr. Billings 
left them to search for help. He was gone two days 
without success. He started again and on the sec- 



ond day he heard a cowbell which led him to Inger- 
solPs. A party started to rescue the bewildered 
ones and after several days rescued them. Their 
hardships were such that Mrs. Lewis died soon 
afterward. Her daughter prepared her for burial. 
A wagon box was cut up for a coffin and Mr. Bur- 
nett (afterward of Windsor) dug her grave. 

When one man cuts his path through miles of 
trackless forest and there erects his shanty with 
no neighbors for miles around and others follow his 
trail but a few weeks later the first is entitled to all 
credit as a ''first settler." But when two or three 
parties come in from different directions, each cut- 
ting his own trail and each believing he has no 
neighbors but wild Indians, all are entitled to like 
credit as pioneers. The first settlers in Windsor 
were Orange Towslee and Nathan Pray, coming by 
different routes, both settled there in October, 1837, 
Towslee upon the first day of the month coming by 
way of Delta, following the Billings trail, then cut- 
ting new road three miles. For six weeks his fam- 
ily lived in a tent while a house was building. He 
started one Friday morning for Spicerville to pur- 
chase lumber for his house. He found no one at 
home and started back, losing his way he wandered 
in the woods until Monday, arriving home he was 
so nearly worn out that his family were frightened 
at sight of him. In November he was on his way 
home from Delta, night coming on he was again lost 
and stumbled into a creek up to his arms. Wolves 


were howling all around and thinking himself safer 
there he remained standing in that water all that 
cold November night. When he reached home the 
next morning his voice failed to produce a sound. 
Some hardship ! Yes, that will pass with the worst 
of them. 

Nathan H. Pray was married in the spring of 
1837 in Washtenaw County and in the following- 
October he moved into Windsor with his bride of 
eighteen years coming by way of Jackson, Spicer- 
ville and Wall Settlement. From Wall's he cut his 
road to Boody's place in Eaton Rapids. Although 
Mr. Pray's land lay three miles beyond, across a 
swamp impassable by team, he unloaded his goods 
at Boody's shanty and the team returned. With 
aid of a hired man he built a shanty on his place 
and drew his household goods there on a hand-sled. 
On the ninth of March, 1838, their son Esek was 
born, the first 'Svhite" child born in the township. 
While hunting his cows in the woods Mr. Pray be- 
came lost and *' whooped" until his hired men came 
to his rescue. They laughed heartily at his getting 
lost but their laughter soon turned when they 
learned they were all lost and remained in the woods 
until the morrow. 

In this same October, 1837, Oramel D., John D., 
and W. P. Skinner arrived in Windsor and built a 
house and afterward cut a road to Spicerville but, 
by the logic of the pioneers, they were not "settled" 
as their families did not come until the following 


spring. None of these three parties knew of the 
presence of another but supposed themselves to be 
the only settlers in the town. 

In the fall of 1837, three single men, Samuel 
Munn, Charles Wright and Andy Mills, arrived and 
took up abode with Mr. Towslee. In the spring of 
1838, T. C. Cogswell arrived, following the trail cut 
by Mr. Pray but his land was three miles further in 
and to this he cut his road. 

Mr. A. Torrey with a large family reached here 
in the spring of 1839. John Courter settled in the 
spring of 1839. Kobert McRedfield settled here in 

John D. Skinner returned with his wife in March, 
1838, but as the sleighing was poor he drove from 
Eaton Rapids upon the ice in the river. This was 
rotten and he had many hair breadth escapes, and 
avoided the river ever after. Charles Hinckley and 
Albert McKinley, returning from town meeting in 
the evening found the ice so rotten they crossed by 
each taking three poles and keeping upon two, 
pushed one ahead at a time. McKinley finally broke 
through and was badly wetted and worse frightened. 

Mr. Courter moved in from Delta assisted by Mr. 
Tow^slee when the water was high. Coming to a 
swollen creek he asked Mrs. Courter how she could 
cross as the water was mid-side to his oxen. She 
asked, ''How did you cross this morning?" He 
replied, '*I rode an ox." Then she said, ''I, too. 


shall ride an ox," and so she did but said it was a 
difficult matter to keep her feet above water. 

Many interesting stories of bear killings were re- 
called but wolf bowlings were so constant by night 
as to excite but little attention. 

Seed wheat cost two dollars a bushel but the crop 
grown brought but thirty cents. 

George P. Carman from Cayuga County, New 
York, settled in Eaton County with his wife and 
son, H. Matson* (then three years old), in 1844, but 
first built in Benton near the east line. As soon 
as the State road was laid from Charlotte to Lan- 
sing he built the first house upon this road and for 
some time it was the only occupied house between 
these two terminals. The first mail over this road 
was in 1849 and Mr. Carman kept the postoffice in 
his house for seven years and after a brief period 
for seven more. For a time the mail was carried 
three times a week upon the back of a mule but later 
a daily stage carried the mail. Mr. Carman was 
six times elected supervisor. 

In 1850, Isaac H. Dimond began damming Grand 
River and building a mill. His dam was partially 
destroyed several times and both the saw mill and 
the grist mill were at times partially undermined. 
The grist mill was not built until 1856, and at that 
time he platted a village and named it Dimondale. 
The mills were later acquired bv A. C. Bruin and 

^See page 164. 


later still by E. W. Hunt who finally built a larger 
grist mill which proved more successful. 

Children were often lost in the wilds and swamps 
of Windsor as well as in other townships. Neigh- 
bors for many miles around would join in the 
search. A noted case that excited the whole county 
was that of a small child of Charles Wright of 
Windsor. The child became lost while on his way 
from school. Two published accounts, differing 
somewhat in detail, are before me. One says he 
was five, the other that he was six years old. Both 
agree that two hundred fifty men from several 
townships joined in the search. One says at dusk 
of the third day, the other says after five full days' 
search, the child was found alive but badly frozen. 
The toes of one foot were entirely lost with partial 
loss of the others. They had previously found his 
cap two miles from the schoolhouse and found nests 
where he had slept. He was found in the midst of a 
willow swamp and by T. E. Potter of Benton. 

Freezings were not common when sheltered by 
forests from the biting winds but the ''cold New 
Year's" of 1864 brought frost bites to many and 
death to some. A grown son of Robert McRedfield 
lost all his toes from freezing on that day. 

At that time I was teaching the school in the Pray 
district. On New Year's morn I started to walk 
to my home fifteen miles away. I walked three 
miles to Uncle George Carman's in comfort, while 
in the lee of the forest, but upon reaching the open 


field I froze both hands and face but not seriously 
although the piercing wind was a gale or hurricane. 
I spent the day at Uncle George's and there saw 
what he said he had heard of but never believed — 
icicles forming in the open fireplace. The explana- 
tion is simple. We would bring in sticks of green 
wood at a temperature twenty-five below zero and 
partially covered with snow. Exposed to the flames 
the snow soon melted but running over sticks at this 
temperature it froze at once into icicles to again 
thaw out somewhat later. If any doubt this, try it 
yourself in a log house with open fireplace with 
green fuel on a similar day. 

The Township of Windsor was organized on the 
same day as three other townships in the county, 
Delta, Eaton Eapids and Sunfield, March 16, 1842, 
and these were the last ones organized except Benton 
and Roxand the following year. 

John D. Skinner was the first supervisor and was 
six times elected to this office as was George P. Car- 
man and Edmund Lewis. W. H. Taylor held the 
office two terms. Nathan H, Pray was supervisor 
in 1847, and twenty-two years later his son Esek 
attained the office and held it ten consecutive years 
and only retired to become county treasurer. Esek 
Pray's sons are now prominent in the county and 
well known throughout the State as are the other 
grandsons of Nathan H. Pray. 

At my last visit with Esek Pray, a short time be- 
fore his demise, he related the following incident 


^ illustrating the practice of early postmasters and 
the vicissitudes of pioneer life. A near neighbor 
came to my father and said to him, *'Mr. Preston 
has sent me word there is a letter in the office for me 
and twenty-five cents postage due on it. I haven't 
got twenty-five cents and I don't know who in this 
country has it unless you have it, Mr. Pray. If you 
have it I will gladly cradle a full day in harvest 
field for it." The offer was accepted. He worked 
faithfully from sunrise until sunset, received the 
twenty-five cents and next day walked the sixteen 
miles to the postoffice, secured the letter and walked 
the sixteen miles back to his home for his wife to 
read the letter to him. 

A Golden "Wedding. 

(Written for the Golden Wedding of Hiram Matson Carman 
and iMary (iSQi'otiwell) Carman, March 8, 1905.) 

This golden day impresses me as others have not done. 
We've met before to greet old age. This time we greet our own. 
E'en Uncle John, twelve years ago, could tell of courting days 
With yoke of steers on long ox sled, and all those early ways. 
But Mat was wed in modern times. (To me it seems that way.) 
This golden day impresses me, we're growing old today. 
In early life we caught a glimpse, and now I ^ive it voice, 
Of simple life our fathers led ere Mat and I were boys. 

When Mat and I were little boys, how long ago it seems; 

The wondrous changes time has wrought seem like our mystic 

There were no telephones at all and scarce a telegraph. 
And if one told of railroad cars old men would simply laugh. 
They had no carpets on their floors nor any cooking stoves; 
They cooked around an open fire and turned the baking loaves. 
When Mat and I were boys. 

The schoolhouse was a small log room with desks against the 

And here they held their Sunday school, prayer meetings, 

church and all, 
And our great farms were forests then with clearings very 

small ; 
The roads were merely winding paths, sometimes no path at all. 
Charlotte was a prairie wild; at Lansing all was woods; 
They drove ox teams to Jackson then, to trade their eggs for 


When Mat and I were boys. 

We've lived the long allotted life the scriptures give to men; 
A hurried life or worried life of three score years and ten. 
Our childhood knew none of the toys that childhood now enjoys; 
No picture slides nor auto glides when Mat and I were boys. 
But childhood had its pleasures then as really true as ours, 
We waded brooks and climbed the trees and gathered wild-wood 

A yoke of calves, tame deer and lamb and pup obeyed each whim, 
Mat had more joy than he could tell if Mary smiled at him, 
When Mat and I were boys. 



The twin Townships of Eaton and Carmel, 
though bound like the Siamese twins by the liga- 
ment of Charlotte, are, by my simple system of 
treating the townships in the order of their earliest 
settlement, brought a long way apart. The earliest 
settlement in the county, outside of Bellevue, was by 
Samuel and Jonathan Searls, at the southeast cor- 
ner of Charlotte prairie in October, 1835. The latest 
township of all to acquire a first settler was Carmel. 
Still in point of actual time they were not so far 
severed — almost exactly two years apart. Still in 
that eventful two years each of the other towns had 
acquired its first inhabitant — eight of them in 1836 
and six in 1837. 

Carmel, the latest of them, was not unattractive 
to pioneers or speculators as is witnessed by the 
fact that purchases from the government were made 
here in 1832, '33, '34, eight purchases in '35 and 
thirty-nine in 1836. 

Who was the first settler? And again we meet 
that ever recurring problem, when is an unsettled 
man settled. The first to begin improvements in 
Carmel was Piatt Morey in autumn, 1837, but, un- 
fortunately, he was a single man and by pioneer's 
logic he could by no possibility be ** settled" until 
married. This happy event occurred two years 



later wlien lie married a niece of Bezaleel Taft, an 
early pioneer of Vermontville. The first to settle 
with his family was Nathan Brooks who also became 
the first supervisor of Carmel. William Webster 
was an early settler but was accidentally killed soon 
after. Robert Dunn was an early settler and out- 
lived nearly all others. 

The venerable John E. Ells, a soldier of 1812, and 
his son, Almon C. Ells, were early settlers here. 
They became respectively the grandfather and the 
father of Frank A. Ells, the highly esteemed and 
efficient editor of The Charlotte Leader. 

William Johnson, distinguished as Blacksmith 
Johnson, married a sister of A. C Ells and resided 
in turn in Charlotte and in Carmel. 

The history of Carmel is closely bound up with 
that of Charlotte, many settlers having resided in 
both. H. H. Gale and his brother-in-law, R. T. 
Cushing, were early residents in Carmel. Town 
meetings were held in Charlotte. 

Alvan D. Shaw, afterward very prominent in 
Eaton County, was an early resident of Carmel and 
left recorded some amusing incidents. He settled in 
Carmel February 20, 1840, and I copy his state- 

''When the day of annual town meeting came we 
thought we ought to attend. Early in the morning 
we all started for what was then called Hyde's Mills 
in Kalamo. "When we got there we were told that 
we did not belong with them at all; that our town 


had been set off and organized by itself. We were 
then in a dilemma. We did not know the name of 
our town nor the place of meeting. We knew that 
Daniel Barber of Vermontville was our represen- 
tative in the legislature. We clubbed together and 
raised a dollar and hired a boy to go to Vermontville 
and see Mr. Barber. Anxious for the dollar the boy 
pulled off his hat, coat, shoes and stockings. With 
head up he ran through the woods and in two hours 
returned with a line from Mr. Barber stating our 
township had been organized and named Carmel 
and told the place of meeting. We returned to the 
designated house and found it to be a low shanty 
covered with split hollow logs. I had to take the 
taller side of the shanty in order to stand erect. 
We then made a ballot box, prepared our ballots, 
and organized the board. Between two and three 
o'clock we began voting. Every elector in town 
voted — eighteen in all. We closed the polls, counted 
the votes and made report as required by statute 
and reached home late in the evening. ' ' 

Mr. Shaw was afterward county commissioner 
several times, township supervisor and in 1844-45 
county clerk. 

Other early residents were Henry J. Robinson, 
A. B. Waterman, James Mann, John Jessup, Harvey 
Williams, M. E. Andrews, James Foster, Thomas 
Cooper, H. Whitehouse, J. P. Herrick, H. M. Mun- 
son, J. E. Sweet, Eli Spencer, A. C. H. Maxon, Abel 
P. Case. 


In 1844 there were forty-one resident taxpayers. 

Early records of the township have been lost but 
after 1845, E. T. Gushing, A. D. Shaw, A. C. Ells 
and T. D. Green alternated as supervisors. 

Families living in the east part sent their chil- 
dren to Charlotte to school but about 1841, five or 
six families living near the center organized district 
No. 1. 
/ The modes of life and labor of the pioneers were 
much the same as that of their ancestors for many 
generations. The same tallow candles by night and 
the same homespun clothes by day. The inventions 
of the nineteenth century, more than the develop- 
men of the county displaced all their modes and 

Cook stoves were entirely unknown to the early 
settlers in Eaton County. Their introduction revo- 
lutionized their culinary practices. Sewing ma- 
chines came during the Civil War and wrought a 
revolution in ''the other room," for shanties had 
then passed and the log house had two or three 
rooms besides the sleeping loft. 

Railroads came into the county at this time and 
brought manufactured products from distant cities. 
The spinning wdieel and the flax wheel were rele- 
gated to the garret and looms banished from our 
homes. The local blacksmith no longer made our 
hoes, forks and axes while farmers made their 
handles. Cast plows had been purchased in the 


rougli but farmers made and fitted beams and 

The decade of the Civil War brought more changes 
to our homes and farms and their management than 
any other decade, perhaps than any other half cen- 
tury. The portable mill with its circle saw revolu- 
tionized our practice with our forests. Farmers no 
longer made with tedious labor their rakes, scythe- 
snaths and cradles. Neither are they making their 
own bedsteads, tables and chairs. Railroads brought 
these from distant cities. They also brought mow- 
ers, reapers, drills for sowing, and planting ma- 
chines, thus liberating half of the farmers' sons to 
go to the cities to produce, with the aid of steam, the 
thousand comforts we never had before. 

Rough shoes are no longer made by our fireside, 
but elegant attire is made by machines at one hun- 
dredth part the labor cost but at perhaps twenty 
times the cash price. Nine days to go to mill has 
now become as many minutes. Twenty-five cents 
postage and a day's walk to post a letter which 
might require four weeks to reach its destination 
now requires even fewer seconds by wireless. 

Long live the memory of the pioneers, their hard- 
ships and privations in paving the way for our lux- 
urious living, but let us not forget their hopeful 
content and happiness. One venerable lady assured 
me they had no hardships. They always had plenty 
of vegetables, abundant fresh meat was procured 
at any time within an hour, abundance of cranberries 


and huckleberries were here before us. Indians 
brought them to our door to exchange for potatoes. 
A little later there were plenty of blackberries and 
raspberries. Of course canning was unknown but 
we always had abundance of them dried. Hard- 
ships, she had known none. But a little later she 
recalled that she once rode on an ox sled in summer 
time, upon the leaves and mud, fifty miles to mill 
and to exchange eighteen pounds of butter for six 
of cheapest tumblers ever made that she might not 
be compelled to offer a drink of water to a stranger 
in a teacup. She recalled too, that when married in 
October she had but two pounds of butter but, as 
they had a fat pig and would soon have lard, she de- 
termined that butter should last them until the ^ ' cow 
came in next spring." No hardships! No, indeed, . 
but let us revere their happy spirit of content ! / 

In my graduating essay in 1867, I paid some 
tribute to the progress of the nineteenth century — 
greater progress in material things and in scientific 
research than in all the preceding centuries. I 
questioned whether we had not nearly reached the 
limit of possible advancement. 

I lived to see greater progress in the remaining 
one-third of the century than in all that preceded. 

I once knew the exact number of the chemical 
elements, sixty-one, and there could be no more. A 
score have since been discovered and now we know 
not that there are any elements. The science that I 
learned was but a figment of the fancy. Medical 


books of ten years ago are but a mass of errors. 
Science is revolutionized. 

We liave now seen but a score of years of the 
twentietli century but in discovery of means of 
destruction, in methods of production and in scien- 
tific research we have gone further than in any pre- 
ceding century. The possible attainments and 
achievements of even the next ten years are beyond 
the conception of man. 


An Addeess 
To John Strange and Other Pioneers of Oneida. 

Upon the fifth of October, 1886, 1 gave the follow- 
ing address to my father and other pioneers on the 
fiftieth anniversary of his arrival upon the land 
that became his future home : 

We assemble at this time to commemorate an 
eventful day in my father's life, to celebrate the 
anniversary of fifty years of the history of Oneida, 
to recall the early events of that history and to 
reflect upon the wondrous changes which these 
sturdy pioneers have helped to bring about in this 
wonderful age in which we live. 

To all of you, then, hardy pioneers, who forsook 
the homes of your youth and the privileges of 
society to penetrate this limitless wilderness, hoping 
to provide better homes and privileges for your 
yet unborn children and grandchildren, to you who 
suffered the cares, privations and hardships which 
only pioneers of your day could suffer and endure, 
I extend, in the name of your posterity, our congrat- 
ulations and our thanks, and the words I address 
to my father I speak to you, one and all. 

Fifty years ago this evening you, with Uncle 
George, Peter Kent and Mr. Groger, might have 



been seen wending your way directly southward 
near where our church now stands, with no path- 
way within miles of you except the blazed trees 
of the government survey. Fifty years ago this 
night you encamped on the land which has since 
been your own. With the rising sun of the morn 
you encompassed this square mile of land which 
you then selected. Peter Kent chose the two half 
sections between which he had last passed before 
reaching this. Other land had been taken in the 
township by speculators, but this is believed to be 
the first land located in town by those who became 
actual settlers. It certainly is the first located 
still owned and occupied by the prospector who 
selected it in the midst of a howling wilderness fifty 
years ago. Thus you are the first visitor who be- 
came a permanent settler and who still remains, 
and you are perhaps the only man living who had 
set foot in Oneida fifty years ago. Others, who 
are still your neighbors, located land in town the 
self-same week and the history of civilization in 
Oneida begins with this time. After making your 
selection of land you returned by the same route 
you came, crossing Grand River and reaching the 
nearest house, ten miles distant, in Eagle, at 3 
o 'clock in the afternoon and then partook of the first 
meal you had tasted since the morning of the day 
before. Thus you began your history here. 

You wisely took a vacation of one and a half 
years before making permanent settlement, and 


meantime neighbors had preceded you. Solomon 
Russell, cutting his way from the north through 
eight miles of trackless wilderness and settling on 
his land one mile north of this, was the first in 
town to erect a habitation. Fifty years ago next 
March Uncle Samuel Preston coming in but a few 
days after Mr. Russell and, cutting his path through 
eight miles of forest from the nearest settlement in 
the southwest and settling a half mile west of here, 
believed himself the first settler until some weeks 
later he learned of his neighbor Russell. 

Canada settlement was formed but a few weeks 
later, in early springtime 1837, by Uncle "Walker 
Nichols and his boys — yes, the boys — we call them 
uncle now, (three of them have gone to their long 
home and three remain, are with us still, with their 
children, their grandchildren — aye, and their great 
grandchildren, — so rapidly do the generations pass, 
so long a time is half a century) and the Nixon 
boys, four brothers. Uncle Robert, James and John 
and Uncle Sam (now just two-thirds the age of his 
great namesake) and in a few short weeks they 
can celebrate the semi-centennial of their perma- 
nent settlement here and the unbroken band of 
brothers yet remains, and three of them still own 
the land on which they first settled fifty years ago. 

"V\^ien a year later, in June, 1838, you returned 
to settle permanently here and when, on the first 
Sunday you spent in town, you attended religious 
meeting at Mr. Huckins' house, where Mr. Brunger 


now lives, although barefooted and clad only with 
homespun shirt and pants, you were respectably 
dressed and cordially welcomed by the new neigh- 
bors among whom you have now dwelt so long and 
so many of whom you have long outlived. 

A lone bachelor; for two years you boarded with 
Uncle Samuel Preston and one of the most import- 
ant events, in all this history, to you — and certainly 
to me — is that there you met his wife's sister and 
forty-six years ago you joined her in holy matri- 
mony. Thirty-six years ago your fourth and young- 
est child was born. An anniversary day indeed is 
this to you and yours. 

It is not a great or remarkable thing to live for 
fifty years, but when a man who has already reached 
half of the allotted span of life forsakes all the 
scenes and ties of his youth and early manhood, 
journeys to a distant realm, and there takes up 
a new mode of life and there abides for fifty years 
and thus outlives all that he had known before and 
all the modes of life and labor which before were 
known, it is indeed remarkable. This fifty years has 
brought to you, we almost say, a new life. Not a 
person, a place or scarce a thing that you had seen 
before fifty years ago will you ever see again. It 
is to you a new world, and how different is the 
world from that in which your youth was spent. 

The pioneer of one or two hundred years ago, 
who settled in the then wild-wood of New England 
or New York, and who there lived for fifty years. 


left his grandchildren dwelling in the same kind 
of house, enjoying the same kind of comforts, 
toiling with the same kind of tools, learning at the 
same labored length the same round of r's that 
his grandfathers had learned and known before him. 
The pioneer of today is not a pioneer. He follows 
w^estward in the wake of the railway and the tele- 
graph. He settles on the plains and turns the virgin 
sod with steam ; he speaks in the telephone and talks 
with friends a thousand miles behind; he finds the 
comforts and the luxuries of civilization on the plain 
and in the hills before him. You have lived in the 
transition period. In the first half of your life you 
were familiar with the modes and manners which 
had prevailed for ages. You have lived to see the 
most marvelous era of discovery and invention, 
perhaps, that the world will ever know. As the 
sixteenth century will ever be remembered for its 
wondrous intellectual awakening, so will the last 
half century through which you have lived be cele- 
brated through all time for its marvelous material 


The farm house of fifty years ago had doors and 
floors of boards not sawed but riven from the body 
of the tree, and the roof sometimes of shakes and 
sometimes of bark. It often consisted of but a 
single room in which large families were reared, 
and where there was always room to lodge the 
stranger. The only fireplace, if built of bricks in- 
stead of mud and sticks, was of the better class. 


For more than half your life your food was cooked 
by the open fireplace, while the cook stove is of 
so recent origin I well remember the first one ever 
brought to this town; in fact it is still in use. 

Fifty years ago the farmer raised the hemp and 
flax, which, as well as wool, was spun and woven by 
his wife and daughters; thus all their clothes were 
made unless, in their excess of pride, some garments 
of boughten but hand-printed calico were added to 
the trousseau ; and so near did that era of domestic 
simplicity and industry reach to the present time 
that I well remember in my own joyous courting 
visits I wore the pantaloons my mother's hand had 
carded and spun and cut and made, while a kindly 
neighbor did the weaving and I took the cloth, on 
horseback, to Portland to have it fulled (a finish 
fitting for a dude, had that creature in that day 
been created). If the farmer did not make his own 
shoes they were made in his house, both upon the 
same last, and by the shoemaker who took his pay 
in pork and corn. 

All these domestic industries are now well nigh 
forgotten. The sewing machine, invented five years 
after you came here and now found in the homes of 
the poorest, has exceeded the fondest hopes of the 
inventor and has given to our daughters literary 
societies and library associations in place of the 
old-time spinning and sewing contests, while the 
myriads of applications of steam machinery now 
supply our homes with a hundred things which you 


were wont to carve by hand, and with thousands of 
toys, trinkets and useful tools which were not 
dreamed of in your philosophies of fifty years ago. 
As long as you retained your strength to toil you 
mowed your grass, spread it in the sun, raked it 
by hand and pitched it away as it had been done for 
generations before you. You have lived to see 
all this labor a thing of the past. The horse now 
does the cutting and spreading, the raking and pitch- 
ing, and already the shrill scream of the steam 
engine is heard as it comes with heated breath to 
distance the horse and displace all his methods : cut- 
ting the green grass and packing it away in the silo, 
turning the sod, acres in a day, and threshing in a 
single day the many hundred bushels of grain which 
would have given labor to man the long winter 
through but fifty years ago. 

You brought with you here the sickle your father 
USED. I well remember seeing you with it, bending 
your weary back and gathering the golden grain. 
You lived to see the invention of the turkey-wing, 
and the many more modern crooked handled cradles, 
and you have lived to see them all displaced succes- 
sively by the reaper, self-rake and dropper. Marsh 
harvester, and that triumph of agricultural imple- 
ments, the twine binding harvester. But more 
wonderful still, you have lived to see the farmer re- 
mould THE VERY animals the Creator had given him ; 
to change the sheep's fleece, within your own re- 
membrance, from two pounds two ounces to twenty 


times that amount. You have seen the hog devel- 
oped from an animal that ' * could clear a five-barred 
gate at a bound" into one which seems to need 
scarcely more than to be encased in staves to be 
transformed into a tub of lard. You have seen the 
draft horse developed to a weight of more than a 
ton, while the driving horse, the most beautiful of 
created animals, has been taught to forsake his 
natural gait for the more graceful trot and at this to 
acquire a speed of a mile in two minutes and six 
seconds. The ox has been bred to take on the un- 
natural weight of 4,000 pounds. The marvelous 
cow of fifty years ago yielded a pound of butter per 
day. The improved cow now yields over 14,000 
pounds of milk per annum, from which over 850 
pounds of butter can be made or over 25 pounds of 
butter in a single week,* while the grasping Yankee, 
not contented with this, makes oleomargarine from 
her carcass and butterine from the butchered pig. 
Other industries are no less active. You have 
seen lumber cut with a whipsaw, by one man stand- 
ing beneath the log and another on top. A modern 
Michigan mill of not uncommon size has cut 442,000 
feet in eleven hours — 40,000 feet per hour. Fifty 
years ago the wagon-maker would fell an oak tree 
for his timber and with his hands construct every 
part of a wagon, using his foot only to aid in turn- 

*These were the best records in 1886. The speed record has 
been diminished and the milk record marvelously increased. 


ing out the hubs. Today a modern factory turns out 
seventeen wagons per day and not one of the numer- 
ous workmen employed could make a wagon, and 
scores contribute to a single wheel. Clothes-pins 
were unknown and unnecessary to fasten clothes to 
the pole on which Mary Jane, way down the lane, 
hung our childhood clothes a drying. Today a log, 
weighing a full ton, is drawn into a mill and in 
twenty minutes the whole of it is transformed into 
clothes-pins, saving only the saw-dust and shavings 
and these suffice to furnish fuel to feed the flames to 
furnish force sufficient for the factory. But why 
multiply illustrations of improved mechanical 
methods? A day, nay a year, would scarce suffice 
to name the numerous applications of machinery 
and steam power in ministering to the wants of 

In your youthtime manual labor was, as it had 
been through all ages, the main force in production. 
You have lived to see the substitution of horse 
power and to see it supplanted by steam. How near 
we are now living to the close of the steam age no 
man can foretell, but certain it is you have lived to 
see the dawn of the electrical era. Fifty years 
ago electricity as a useful agent was entirely un- 
known. Today its adoption promises to revolution- 
ize all our industries. Already it lights our homes, 
transmits our voices, aye and the image of our 
countenances across a continent, while the whole 
earth seems like a tliino- of life with a vast net work 


of electric wires like a nervous system transmitting 
the thoughts and feelings from every intelligence 
to the remotest members, while the steam railway 
like an arterial system conveys the life blood of com- 
merce to every part. If Earth's cuticle be ruptured 
kerosene oozes forth and from deeper gashes flow 
the precious metals in abundance, while the sweat of 
her summer yields the glad harvest. Her long un- 
known tones of thunder are now translated, and 
transmitted by telephone, and with myriads of steam 
whistles she laughs at her children's triumphs in 
catching, controlling and training the forces of 
nature to do their bidding and to render glad ser- 
vice to man. 


made its trial trip but six years before you came to 
Michigan. Today the railways of the world are of 
sufficient length to encircle the earth at its equator 
twelve times and the half of all this mileage is in our 
beloved country. The telegraph, invented the very 
year you came to Michigan, was not in practical use 
until eight years later. The telephone and phono- 
graph neither is yet ten years old. The one entombs 
our very voices that our posterity may resurrect 
them at pleasure unnumbered ages hence. The other 
is in constant use in every city and village in the 
land and has already revolutionized business 
methods. Repeating firearms, gatling guns, dyna- 
mite and nitro-glycerine, iron-clad ships, steel- 
armored ships with revolving metalic turrets, re- 


volving forts, ship canals, ship railways, marine 
torpedoes and submarine navigation all belong to 
the age of which you, hardy pioneers, have been 
and done a part, a great, a noble part ; without you 
these things would not, could not have been. 

While the material progress of this time may well 
be the marvel of the ages, the intellectual and 
MORAL PROGRESS lias bccu also marked. Means for 
increasing and disseminating knowledge have de- 
veloped on every hand. The man lived until this 
year who invented the first postage stamp, while 
our postal system is now the wonder of the world, 
The whole number of pieces mailed in the United 
States for fifty years before you came to Michigan 
was less than 100,000,000, while this year the pieces 
mailed in Boston alone is more than twice that 
number. Nine rates of postage were charged you 
fifty years ago, varying from six cents for letters 
carried less than thirty miles to twenty-five cents 
for those carried 450 miles. The postoifice, for the 
use of the people, is the product of the present gen- 

, The newspaper, that wondrous lever of civiliza- 
tion, (formerly published generally by the post- 
masters of the several cities and all papers but 
theirs excluded from the mails), was still an experi- 
ment fifty years ago. No paper in America at that 
time had a circulation of 5,000 copies. The first 
religious newspaper in America was at that time 
but twenty-one years old and the first agricultural 


newspaper was barely eighteen. Today every ham- 
let publishes a local paper and the great city dailies 
are borne on the wrings of the morning almost 
wherever man may tread. Over 2,000 million copies 
are issued annually in this country or over forty 
copies for each man, woman and child in America ; 
and any man in town may, at his breakfast table, 
read of every important event that took place in any 
capital on earth but the day before. Surely the day 
dawns when we should be brethren to all mankind. 

Fifty years ago the Bible, Fox 's Book of Martyrs 
and an almanac formed a library. Today our homes 
are filled with books and a half dozen papers are 
often regular and welcome visitors at the farmer's 

Fifty years ago the three r's formed the curricu- 
lum in your schools. Today our country district 
schools add to these not only geography and English 
language but U. S. history, science of government, 
natural philosophy, algebra, physiology and natural 
history, and a child of fourteen years already has 
a smattering of all of these. 

Fifty years ago our colleges taught little but the 
mythical language and legends of ancient Greece and 
Rome. Today Nature's labratory is opened for our 
inspection. Truths were concealed for ages in the 
GREAT BOOKS OF THE ROCKS, rills and vales which are 
now opened displaying their beautifully illustrated 
pages and attractive type while teachers, ready to 
translate their entrancing tales and teach their lore. 


are ever ready inviting us to read. The spectro- 
scope reveals to us the composition of the very stars. 
Old Astronomy has received and sheds a flood of 
new light. Geology, the youngest of the sisterhood 
of sciences, adorned with jeweled robes, woos us 
with silver tones to listen to the poem of old Earth's 
early life. Chemistry reveals a flood of newly dis- 
covered, useful, practical knowledge every year. 

Light, heat and electricity, with their ever varying 
iridescence, invite us to pursue, among the fleeting 
shadows, the glittering flashes, they now and then 
reveal, of the infinitude of light and truth beyond. 
Acoustics has its time-tried theories torn asunder 
but with a tide of truth just yet concealed beyond 
the ken of mortal man. 

Politico-economic science is sighing for a teacher 
able to expound its truths. Evolution no longer 
startles us with its assumptions, but its probabilities 
are conceded by every great living naturalist on 
either side the ocean. Even medicine promises yet 
to become a science. 

Ministers of the Gospel are learning to proclaim 
the glorious teachings of our Savior instead of con- 
tending for dogmatic platitudes which they never 
understood, and Christianity is awakening to the 
import of its divine Founder's last command. 
Slavery is swept from our land, and the hydra- 
headed monster. Intemperance, is grappling in the 
throes of death with the better sentiment of the 
last quarter of the grandest of centuries. 


This is emphatically the age of progkess. Other 
ages have exhibited giant movements and agitations, 
but these have been principally conflicts and revolu- 
tions. The movements of this have been marches^ 
its agitations advances. The progress made has 
been so rapid and universal that the people stand 
amazed at their own triumphs and question whether 
they have not nearly reached the limit of possible 
advancement. Still the battle cry of the world is 
ONWARD. Can we doubt that this spirit is to con- 
tinue through countless ages, that other centuries 
shall stand as far in advance of this as this now is 
beyond its predecessors? You have witnessed the 
kindling of the intellectual fires which are des- 
tined to burn on through futurity with a brighter, 
steadier flame until the end of time. The portals 
of the great intellectual realm have been thrown 
wide open and, as we explore its vistas, broader and 
deeper flow the streams of thought ; wider and more 
fertile seem the fields of that realm; more glorious 
seems the sky o'erhead and more boundless and 
harmonious the paths before, until the ends thereof 
or the glories of their unexplored labyrinths no man 
can conceive. 

A half a century of time, 
Oh! what a theme, for prose or rhyme, 
Is such a century. 

When here you came in Autumn time, 
And chose this land and climate fine, 
You pitched your tent, at evening time. 
For half a century. 


When here you laid j'ou down to rest 
Your head no downy pillow pressed; 
What hopes, were forming in your hreast, 
•Of half a century! 

The night wind whispered "Rest in peace, 
"The rising sun will bring no ease, 
"But lead to labors not to cease 
"For half a century." 

The forest spoke of endless toil, 
The bears and wolves would make turmoil, 
Your only thought was from the soil, 
With ceaseless toil. 

To wrest a competence. 

When here again you came alone. 
To change the forest to a home, 
You'd heard of Adam and his bone 
And how alone 

It was not good to live. 

And when you met a maiden fair, 
With hazel eye and auburn hair, 
She looked to you as maidens rare, 
Discreet and fair, 

Will always look to men. 

And when you'd won her prudent hand 
And she had joined you on this land 
She brought to you a precious band, 
A merry band. 

Of children such as we. 

A helpmete true she has always been, 
A precious mother now as when 
She nursed us at her breast or when, 
Oft and again, 

iShe taught us at her knee. 

The old log house we well recall 

Its furniture, you made it all; 

Hewed down the logs and chinked the wall; 

It does recall 

Long memories. 


Your brothers came to share your home, 
Join In your cares and help to roam 
The forest, vast and all unknown, 
And bring you home 

Fresh store of venison. 

Long hardships now you may recall; 
Driving an ox team in the fall, 
Full fifty miles (you walked it all). 
To reach the fall 

Where ran the watermill. 

Here you have felled the forest king; 
Here you have watched, upon the wing. 
The storm birds and the birds of spring 
And everything 

That makes us love this life. 

Here you have toiled the long days through 
Mid stumps and logs and briars too. 
Treading at early morn the dew 
When, all night through, 

Fever with ague vied. 

Sickness and accidents, a share 
Has fallen to your lot, and care, 
But ne'r complaint heard anywhere; 
Stout heart was there 

In all adversities. 

Weddings have come, too, with their cheer; 
And death has wrung from you a tear, 
Your youngest son lies buried here 
After so brief career 

And yet how grand a life. 

Grandchildren, too, have gone before; 
You'll meet glad welcome on that shore 
From whence no traveler, heretofore 
Or evermore, 

iShall come again to earth. 


Others may live as long we know, 
Perhaps more griefs and sorrows know, 
But none again can undergo. 
While here ibelow. 

The hardships you have seen. 

To change a forest into farms, 
With strong right hand and brawny arms. 
While wife and children dread alarms. 
And savage harms. 

And wildwood miseries. 

Is done but once in any place; 
And not another age or race 
Can here again your works replace, 
Or steps retrace, 

For half a century. 

Your labors here are nearly done. 
Your race on earth is nearly run, 
The Master soon will call you home 
And say "Well done, 

"Enter the joy prepared." 

But memory will linger still 
About your grave; and many will 
Come after you, but none can fill 
The place you filled 

For half a century. 

And may the good deeds you have done 
Be ne'er forgotten by your son, 
But like the waves caused by a stone 
Their influence run 

Through many centuries. 


The Eaton County Pioneer Society doubtless owes 
its origin to Henry A. Shaw, Esq., of Eaton Rapids, 
more than to any other. A meeting was called at 
his office on January 6th, 1872, for the purpose of 
organizing a Pioneer Society. 

Hon. John Montgomery was made chairman of 
the meeting and G. W. Knight, secretary. H. A. 
Shaw, Joel Latson and J. W. Toles were appointed 
a committee to make arrangements for the first 
meeting, to be held at Eaton Rapids February 22, 

A constitution was then adopted providing, 
among other things, ''This association shall be 
known as the Pioneer Society of Eaton and Ingham 
Counties. Any person having resided continuously 
in the State since 1847, and being now a resident of 
either of these two counties, is eligible to member- 
ship." At this first annual meeting John Mont- 
gomery was elected President; R. W. Griswold, 
Vice President ; and G. W. Knight, Secretary. 

The second annual meeting was held at Charlotte, 
February 24, 1873, when S. S. Church of Vermont- 
ville was elected President. 

The third annual meeting was held at Eaton Rap- 
ids, February 25, 1874. Hon. Austin Blair related 
interesting early experiences, and he was followed 



by others. At tliis meeting the constitution was 
amended to provide for meetings in June instead 
of February. Jesse Hart of Brookfield was elected 

Two meetings were held in 1874, the second at 
Vermontville when Fitz L. Eeed of Olivet was 
elected President. 

The fourth annual meeting was held on the fair 
grounds at Charlotte and subsequent meetings were 
held at the same place until 1922, when a fiftieth 
anniversary meeting was held at Eaton Rapids on 
February 22d. 

The Presidents of the Society from 1875 have been 
as follows : I. E. C. Hickok, Osman Chappell, G. T. 
Rand, Esek Pray, George N. Potter, George W. 
Nichols and others. Elisha Shepherd was a most 
efficient President for many years and Ernest Pray 
for several. 

George A. Perry was a most satisfactory Secre- 
tary for many years. After him the secretaries' 
books were lost so this report must be fragmentary. 

At the annual meeting in Charlotte, 1921, Daniel 
Strange, then President, was elected Historian, and 
he at once set about the compilation of this history. 
Frank A. Dean was then elected President, and 
Frank N. Green, Vice President, and Cynthia A. 
Green, Secretary. 

At the annual meeting in 1922, Frank N. Green 
presiding, it was voted to publish the Pioneer His- 
tory of the County. It was also voted to hold the 


annual meeting of 1923 at Bellevue to celebrate the 
ninetieth anniversary of the first settlement in the 
county at that place. The following officers were 
elected: Frank N. Green, Olivet, President; Nelson 
L. Smith, Charlotte, Vice President; Cynthia A. 
Green, Charlotte, Secretary. 

Ingham County had never joined with Eaton 
County in these celebrations and at the Bellevue 
meeting in 1923, it was voted to adopt the more 
fit name of Eaton County Pioneer and Historical 
Society. The officers last named were re-elected 
together with A. B. Barnum for many years a most 
efficient Treasurer.